Will they come to praise Please Flatter Me in Miss Preakness?
Please Flatter Me won the Gin Talking Stakes. Photo Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.
Mark Reid remembers the chilly December day he was strolling around the Timonium salesgrounds at the Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale in 2017, clutching a cup of hot coffee, when he came upon a short yearling that caught his eye.
“I just happened to walk by and saw she was a nice correct Pennsylvania-bred filly, and by a sire I liked (Munnings),” said Reid. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ and ended up buying her.”
Reid, who has worn many hats during his long and successful career in the industry – as a trainer, a racing manager (for Mr. and Mrs. William Warren’s Horse of the Year Saint Liam), a bloodstock agent and owner of Walnut Green in West Chester, Pa. – was the lucky bidder on the filly. She was consigned by Becky Merkel, who owns Diamond B Farm in Mohrsville, Pa. with her husband, Glenn Brok.
For just $12,000, Reid purchased her on behalf of his longtime client Dan Ryan, a noted homebuilder, and she was christened Please Flatter Me. That was money well spent, as the dark bay or brown filly has won three of her four lifetime starts, including two stakes races, and earned nearly $165,000.
On Friday, Please Flatter Me faces the toughest test of her young career when she squares off against 11 rivals in the wide-open $150,000, Grade 3 Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes, a six furlong event for 3-year-old fillies. It’s carded as the eighth race on the program, and she’ll break from post four with Jose Ortiz aboard, with morning-line odds of 8-1.
Among those she’ll be facing is the Brad Cox-trained Covfefe, who went off as the heavy favorite in last year’s Frizette Stakes (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park but was defeated by eventual Eclipse Award for juvenile fillies winner Jaywalk. Covfefe is making her second start back since being shelved after the Frizette, and was tabbed as the tepid favorite at 7-2.
“It’s a pretty salty group,” said Reid of the Miss Preakness. “It’s a lot tougher than Please Flatter Me has faced before. Anytime you catch a horse trained by Bob Baffert (Fighting Mad, 4-1), you know it’s a good field. And the filly trained by Cal Lynch (Congrats Gal, 8-1) looks like she’ll be tough, too.
“You’ve got to get lucky in these kind of races, and the one thing about Please Flatter Me is that she has great natural speed, and I expect she’ll be in the first flight,” said Reid. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Please Flatter Me, who is out of the Flatter mare She’s Flattering, broke her maiden at Penn National in early October, winning by an eye-popping 8-½ lengths against open company. Reid brought her back in late November in the $107,750 Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies Stakes at the Grantville track, and she was hammered at the pari-mutuel windows. She ran true to her backing, however, bursting out of the gate and never looking back, winning the six furlong test by four lengths.
Right after the Blue Mountain, Reid was approached by bloodstock agent Bradley Weisbord, who made an offer to buy her on behalf of a group consisting of Sol Kumin (Madaket Stables), Heider Family Stables and Doheny Racing Stable.
“Dan (Ryan) really understands the financial end of the game, and so he decided to sell her,” said Reid. “I was fortunate that they decided to leave her with me to train.”
Please Flatter Me made her first start for her new owners in the $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park December 29, and once again she sparkled, leading from start to finish in the seven furlong affair and drawing away to a nearly six-length victory. With an unblemished record of three starts, three wins, it was decided to try her in the one-mile Busher Stakes at Aqueduct in March. She held the lead until midstretch, but then tired to finish fourth.
“The weather forced us to miss some training time, so she wasn’t as fit as she could have been,” said Reid.
Reid said that Please Flatter Me has blossomed into quite the racehorse since that day he saw her at Timonium, and expects her to run well Friday.
“When I got her, she was on the small side,” he recalled. “But when she started training, she went from being a little girl to a beautiful 16-hand athlete. And from the first time she worked, I knew she was going to be a runner. Her last couple of breezes (at Pimlico) have been really fast, and I think she’s going to run well (in the Miss Preakness).”