Miss Marissa
Miss Marissa held off Bonny South to win the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Photo by Allison Janezic.

The last time that Miss Marissa faced graded stakes company was 10 months ago, when she ran 10th in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The story ended a little differently at Pimlico on Saturday, when Miss Marissa led the field through fast fractions to triumph in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2).

Miss Marissa and Mizzen Beau took command early, the latter maintaining a short lead from the former, running the first quarter of the nine-furlong race in 23.10 seconds. Odds-on favorite Bonny South, coming to the race after a runner-up finish in the Alabama Stakes (G1) in August, trailed the field under jockey Florent Geroux.

From the back, Bonny South began making her move heading into the far turn, racing wide in an attempt to make up at least a dozen lengths. Up front, Daniel Centeno and Miss Marissa overtook Mizzen Beau, who hung in stubbornly before finally giving away. Bonny South, still far back, appeared to be done.

Miss Marissa looked to have the race in hand inside the sixteenth pole, but Bonny South wasn’t done, not just yet. Making a furious charge down the center of the racetrack, she mounted a final serious threat to the leader but ran out of racetrack, settling for second by neck.

Miss Marissa ran the nine furlongs in 1:48.08, notching her third win in a row.

“The fractions are going to be fast when she’s near the lead,” said trainer Jimmy Ryerson. “I wasn’t too concerned when I saw how fast she was going.”

Hopeful Growth finished third, followed by Mizzen Beau, Dream Marie, Project Whiskey, Sharp Starr, Truth Hurts, Perfect Alibi, and So Darn Hot.

Kentucky-bred Miss Marissa is by He’s Had Enough and out of the Arch mare Ardara. She was bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds and is owned by Alfonso Cammarota.

After the nine-furlong Demoiselle, Ryerson cut the filly back to seven furlongs, then tried her on the turf at a mile and a sixteenth. The gray/roan filly finally found her footing at Monmouth Park in July, winning an allowance there before taking a Saratoga optional claimer at a mile-and-an-eighth.

“Last year I thought she wanted two turns and she made a liar out of me,” said Ryerson. “It was ugly.”

“She really moved forward in her race at Saratoga,” he continued. “We got lucky that it was a small field, but there were some nice horses in there.”

The Black-Eyed Susan is Miss Marissa’s third win a row, for a lifetime record of 12-4-2-1. Purchased as a yearling for $11,000 by Antonio Sano, she’s earned $324,000. Miss Marissa paid $22.20 to win, and the exacta, with the favorite underneath, returned $53.30 for a buck.

“We couldn’t be happier,” said Ryerson. “We were looking for a tougher spot for her, and she answered today.”