Brenda's Way wins the Geisha. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Brenda’s Way won the Geisha, aims to take a big step against graded foes on Friday. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Stonestreet Stable’s Keen Pauline has faced stakes-caliber fillies, but not in a stakes race. She’ll get her chance Friday when she makes her stakes debut in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2).

“This filly is one that’s just coming around, and I’m taking a chance that she has her breakthrough race here,” trainer Dale Romans said. “She acts like she’s doing good enough to do that, and I’ve always thought a lot of her. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her. Hopefully, it’s in this race.”

A Stonestreet Stable homebred, Keen Pauline is a daughter of Pulpit and the Two Punch mare Grand Pauline. The filly has won one of five starts.

As a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs, she finished in front of such fillies as I’m a Chatterbox, an eventual multiple-graded stakes winner at Fair Grounds who ran third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and Fantasy (G2) runner-up Oceanwave, who would finish seventh in the Kentucky Oaks.

This year, Keen Pauline ran third in a Gulfstream Park race won by Eskenformoney, who would go on to the Kentucky Oaks. Keen Pauline debuted in a Saratoga turf race won by Lady Eli, the eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner. Puca, who wound up 12th in the Kentucky Oaks, was third in that maiden race.

“She’s run with some good ones and run competitive with them, and I really think she’s a good filly,” Romans said. “And I think she’s on the verge of breaking out and showing everybody how good she really is.”

As far as Romans is concerned, he is owed a Black-Eyed Susan victory after a disqualification cost his trainee Smart N Pretty a win in 2006. Smart N Pretty finished first, 3 ½ lengths in front of jockey Ramon Dominguez and Regal Engagement, but placed second following an inquiry and objection for interference.

Regina Christina, Brenda’s Way Ready for Friday Stakes

After searching Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day undercard for a spot to run his filly Regina Christina, trainer Damon Dilodovico ultimately settled on the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3).

“This one is a lot tougher than we hoped,” Dilodovico said. “It’s a very salty race; all the races appear to be. We have Brenda’s Way in the [Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3)] and it’s the same way.  Did you see it, with the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner from last year in there? I think the racing secretary and those guys in her office may have done their jobs too well.”

In fact, Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale said her staff has done an excellent job.

“I think this is the strongest Black-Eyed Susan Day card I’ve ever had, with the stakes and the undercard,” said Hale, who has been in charge since 2000. “If we don’t have rain, the handle should be huge. The whole racing office worked hard, talking to trainers and getting horses to us for Friday. We’re very proud of how it has turned out, and I think the card will be just as good Saturday.”

Dilodovico said that despite the challenges presented, he is eager to see how his fillies run.

“We’re very excited to get Regina Christina in a race,” Dilodovico said. “She breezed very well, but she’s kind of full of herself.  By race day I want a controlled ‘full of herself.’ Our best shot will be for her to be near the front of the pact. Obviously, the horses we’re running against are great horses. Setting up a race to go the way you want won’t be easy for anyone.”

Dilodovico claimed the daughter of Stonesider in January for Adam Staple’s Big Bertha Stables. She hasn’t finished worse than third in five career starts on dirt, but she comes into the Miss Preakness off a ninth-place finish in the Stormy Blues Stakes on turf last month at Pimlico.

“The last start, there was some thinking she might have some turf pedigree, but we knew it wasn’t going to be her day,” Dilodovico said. “But she’s 100 percent and ready to go on the dirt now.”

The trainer feels equally good about his DuPont entry Brenda’s Way, who has won 50 percent of her races and also has two seconds.

“She looks great,” he said. “Her coat looks super and [jockey Jevian] Toledo came over and worked her [Sunday] for us.  It was a nice controlled workout and she really looks good. But, again, the field is full of really good horses.”