Project Whiskey
Project Whiskey lit up the toteboard in a Delaware Oaks upset. Photo by

An evenly-matched field of 11 fillies, led by graded-stakes winners Bonny South, Hopeful Growth, Perfect Alibi and Project Whiskey, are set to gather for the 96th running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G1) Saturday, Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.

The 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies will be Race 10 on an all-stakes Preakness Day program, immediately preceding the 145th edition of the Preakness Stakes (G1). Post time for the Black-Eyed Susan is 4:41 p.m., and will be part of NBC’s national television coverage from 4:30-6 p.m.

First run in 1919 as the Pimlico Oaks, the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan was originally scheduled for May 15 in its traditional spot on Preakness eve, but both races were subsequently rescheduled amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the Black-Eyed Susan repositioned on the Preakness undercard.

Nine horses to win the Black-Eyed Susan have gone on to be named champion 3-year-old filly including Hall of Famers Twilight Tear, Davona Dale, Serena’s Song, Silverbulletday and Royal Delta. Among other prominent winners are Hall of Famer Gallorette; Nellie Morse, the only filly to also win the Preakness, in 1924; High Voltage, Caesar’s Wish and Wide Country.

Post time for the first of 12 races Preakness Day is 11 a.m.

Juddmonte Farms homebred Bonny South was rerouted to the Black-Eyed Susan following the announcement in mid-August that it was to join the Preakness lineup. The chestnut daughter of multiple graded-stakes winning sprinter Munnings tuned up for the race with a five-furlong work in 1:01 Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.

Winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) in March, Bonny South was a closing second behind Swiss Skydiver in the 1 ¼-mile Alabama (G1) last out Aug. 15 at Saratoga and then bypassed the Kentucky Oaks (G1) Sept. 4. Swiss Skydiver is entered to face the boys in the Preakness.

“Since the Alabama she’s done really, really well,” trainer Brad Cox said. “She’s maturing. She’s still somewhat lightly raced, only run six times in her life. I think we have yet to see the best of her. Hopefully, she’ll take a step forward.”

Florent Geroux, up for both her recent work and the Fair Grounds Oaks, will ride Bonny South from Post 5 at 124 pounds, sharing topweight with Project Whiskey and Perfect Alibi.

Tracy Farmer’s Perfect Alibi won the Schuylerville (G2) and Spinaway (G1) at 2 but has gone winless in five tries since, including a second in the Alcibiades (G1) and a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to cap her rookie season. She didn’t get started this year until June and finished off the board in the one-mile Acorn (G1) and seven-furlong Test (G1) before running third by a length in the Sept. 7 Weber City Miss at Laurel, an automatic qualifier for the Black-Eyed Susan.

Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, Perfect Alibi drew outside Post 11 with jockey Paco Lopez.

St. Elias Stable’s Hopeful Growth was fifth to Project Whiskey in the 1 1/16-mile Delaware Oaks (G3) July 4, but avenged that loss with a four-length triumph in the Aug. 1 Monmouth Oaks (G3). Most recently she was sixth to Bonny South’s stablemate Shedaresthedevil in the Kentucky Oaks.

Hopeful Growth will carry 122 pounds including jockey Trevor McCarthy from Post 8.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Project Whiskey, who captured the Parx Juvenile Fillies last fall, was a determined half-length winner of the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks at odds of 38-1. She ran well to be a decisive second in the Monmouth Oaks and got within four lengths of the lead midway through the Weber City Miss before tiring to be last of nine.

“She hasn’t run well at Laurel, so we’re not sure if she just doesn’t like the surface too much,” trainer Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr. said. “She didn’t get away clean and got back a little further than she normally is and had to eat some dirt, and it wasn’t to her liking.

“She came out of her race like she never even ran,” he added. “We’re going to give her a mulligan on that one and look for better things because she’s training perfectly. So, we’re going to take another shot.”

Victor Carrasco has the call on Project Whiskey from Post 1.

Three horses – Landing Zone, Miss Marissa and Mizzen Beau – enter the Black-Eyed Susan off victories. Alfonso Cammarota’s Miss Marissa has won two straight including a front-running optional claiming allowance going 1 1/8 miles Aug. 13 at Saratoga, while Mizzen Beau captured the 1 1/16-mile Bison City over Woodbine’s all-weather surface Sept. 12.

BB Horses Landing Zone takes a three-race win streak into the Black-Eyed Susan for Maryland’s three-time defending leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez. The Morning Line filly has stretched out from 5 ½ furlongs to a mile to one mile and 70 yards in each of her victories, which have come by 16 ¾ combined lengths.

“The last two races have been really big and we decide with the owner to take shot in the big race,” Gonzalez said. ““I believe the longer races, she’s more relaxed and she likes it more. In the morning when she breezes, she looks good. Sometimes she beats the good fillies and in the afternoon she wasn’t showing what she was in the morning. That’s why I told the owner I want to figure out what is the best I can do to change something and when we did, she likes it.”

Landing Zone went gate to wire to win by 11 lengths at Delaware Park Aug. 31, following up with a 3 ½-length triumph over Black-Eyed Susan rival So Darn Hot Sept. 10. Gonzalez claimed her for $25,000 out of a runner-up finish sprinting six furlongs last November at Laurel.

“I claimed her last year and she was very nervous for everything. Now she’s more mature and she looks better and not nervous like before, even in the paddock,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why she improved a lot. Now we can train her different and she likes it. She’s showing me now in her last few races. Her last few races have been really good.”

Angel Cruz will ride Landing Zone for her stakes debut from Post 10.

“It’s very exciting for me. Horses [that cost] a lot of money, I don’t have horses like that. But I try to claim horses with back class or something like that and try to improve them,” Gonzalez said. “Now I have horses in the stakes races and I believe that’s good not only for me but for everybody. They can see we’re doing something good and doing good work.”

Trainer George Weaver captured last year’s Black-Eyed Susan with Point of Honor, who would go on to run second in the coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Alabama at 3 and the Ogden Phipps (G1) in June. Weaver returns to defend his title with Stetson Racing, Lanni Donato and Rita Riccelli’s So Darn Hot, owner of a six-length maiden win June 18 at Belmont Park from just four lifetime starts.

Completing the field are Sharp Starr, most recently third in the Fleet Indian against fellow New York-breds Sept. 4 at Saratoga; Truth Hurts, third in the Bison City; and Delaware Oaks runner-up Dream Marie.