Locals well-beaten as out-of-towners sweep Black-Eyed Susan graded stakes
by Frank Vespe
The out-of-town invaders came early, the rains came late, and the locals, who entered Black-Eyed Susan day with high hopes, left for the most part empty-handed.
Actress, Shaman Ghost, Terra Promessa, and Vertical Oak all made the grade in graded stakes, while local hopefuls like Shimmering Aspen, Crabcakes, Bodhisattva, and Winter found the going tough on Maryland’s second biggest day.
The rains arrived suddenly moments prior to the running of the grassy, $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, and while it probably wasn’t foreshadowing, exactly, fans looking for the rainbow to arrive for the venerable Ben’s Cat were disappointed in the end. The 11-year-old son of Parker’s Storm Cat, bred, owned, and trained by Hall of Famer King Leatherbury, could mount only the mildest of mild rallies and finished eighth.
The Cat was one of several local interests in the McKay, the most successful of which was another veteran, the Susan Cooney trainee Made Bail. The son of Closing Argument, now five years old, finished fifth in a race in which Richard’s Boy, most recently fifth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Spring at Meydan, edged favored Pay Any Price for the win.
Those same rains turned the formerly fast track into a sloppy, sealed mess for the day’s top event, the Grade 2, $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
That worked out well for Actress, who rallied from far back to win by a neck in 1:51.87, holding off Lights of Medina to win.
“I always liked this filly,” said trainer Jason Servis. “I told [the owners Gary and Mary West] she’s a good filly from day one.”
While not every horse takes to the off going, Actress relished it, said winning jockey Nik Juarez.
“We knew she would get a distance,” he said. “They were running fast up front, and I was sitting behind. She ate the dirt up.”
Shimmering Aspen, trained at Laurel Park by Rodney Jenkins for Hillwood Stable, was perhaps surprisingly the tepid 3.40-1 favorite. Though Shimmering Aspen, a daughter of Malibu Moon, had impressed in winning three straight by comfortable margins, she had never previously tried a two-turn distance or stakes company.
Under Victor Carrasco, Shimmering Aspen bid for the lead near the quarter pole, led to the furlong grounds, but emptied out late to finish a well-beaten seventh.
In the day’s other top race, the Grade 3 Pimlico Special, $300,000 Pimlico Special, Grade 1 winner Shaman Ghost’s class won out, but it wasn’t easy. Shaman Ghost — running in the colors of Stronach Stables — rallied from sixth to wear down free-wheeling Dolphus, loose on the lead while maintaining a moderate pace.
It wasn’t a bad outcome for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who trained both the winner and the runner-up.
“Shaman had a little too much for him, but Dolphus ran terrific,” Jerkens said. “It’s terrific to run one-two — that’s what we came down here for.”
Those two runners, just a neck apart, were seven lengths clear of Conquest Windycity in third. Three runners with recent starts at Laurel and Charles Town — Name Changer, Fellowship, and Bodhisattva — finished fourth, seventh, and ninth.
In the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff, the first of the day’s seven stakes, favored Terra Promessa earned a facile, seven-length score at even odds. Pennsylvania-bred Power of Snunner was fourth, while the locally-based Winter, trained by Cal Lynch at Laurel Park, was sixth.
“She’s a wonderful filly and being by Curlin it makes it special,” said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “Jose [Ortiz] rode her twice previously and both were wins. He knows the filly. Obviously, she’s better now than she’s ever been. Her last race against Stellar Wind was her fastest. For her to respond like this after such a demanding race speaks volumes to her personality and durability.”
Asmussen and Ortiz also got the money in the day’s other graded event, the Grade 3 Miss Preakness, a six-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies. His Vertical Oak, sent off at nearly 7-1, thrashed favored Our Majesty to win by nearly four lengths.
“I was in great position going into the turn,” Ortiz said. “I was third in the clear. I waited and waited, then she jumped into the bit, so I knew I had a horse when I asked her.”
Maryland-bred Crabcakes, the winner of last winter’s Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, was never much involved after a bad break and wound up eighth.