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
Willful Woman won an allowance race at Oaklawn Park last out. Photo by Coady Photography.

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.