WILLFUL WOMAN HEADING TO BLACK-EYED SUSAN
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Willful Woman, a 3-year-old daughter of champion Nyquist and half-sister to Grade 3 winner Ever So Clever, will make her return to stakes company in the 97th running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 14 at Pimlico Race Course.
Alex Lieblong said the filly, based in Kentucky with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, is being pointed to the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan for sophomore fillies that headlines a program of six stakes, four graded, worth $1 million in purses on the eve of the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1).
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“[Asmussen] says all systems go on her,” Lieblong said. “I usually get a vibe from him one way or the other and I think he’s felt real good how she’s trained. She worked the other morning and had a nice work. It was unlike an Asmussen work, although there were only 17 or 18 horses that worked, but she had a nice work there. So, knock on wood, it looks like she’s headed that way.”
Willful Woman breezed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds May 2 at Churchill Downs, fastest of 17 horses. It was her first timed work since rebounding from running last of seven in the March 6 Honeybee (G3) by winning an optional claiming allowance April 9, both going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park.
Purchased for $400,000 as a yearling in August 2019 at Saratoga, Willful Woman’s sire was the champion male at 2 and won the 2016 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) and was third in the Preakness at 3. Ever So Clever, also out of the Grade 3-placed mare Foxy Danseur, won the 2017 Fantasy (G3) for Asmussen.
“We think she’s a really nice filly. She’s just kind of kept growing into herself,” Lieblong said. “She was kind of a big, tall, scopey thing, so to speak, but now she’s filling that scope out some so we’re tickled pink with the way she’s doing.”
Previously in the Black-Eyed Susan, the Lieblongs owned Marathon Lady, a 12-1 long shot who came up a neck short of Bob Baffert-trained winner Fiftyshadesofhay in 2013 Black-Eyed Susan. They won the 2020 Miss Preakness (G3) with Wicked Whisper. Asmussen in seeking his first Black-Eyed Susan win.