Faiza to put perfect mark on line in Black-Eyed Susan
Michael Lund Petersen’s undefeated Faiza will try to extend her perfect record and win her fifth graded stake in Friday’s $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Faiza and regular rider Flavien Prat will start from Post 9 in the field of 12.
The 99th running of the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies highlights a 14-race program that includes six stakes, three graded, worth $1 million in purses and serves as a prelude to Saturday’s 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Other graded stakes on the Black-Eyed Susan program are the $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at the Preakness distance of and the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs.
Rounding out the stakes action are the $100,000 Allaire du Pont Distaff and a pair of turf events, the $100,000 Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies at one mile, and $100,000 The Very One, a five-furlong dash for females 3 and older. First-race post time Friday is 11:30 a.m. Post time for the Black-Eyed Susan, which is carded as Race 13.
Faiza broke her maiden sprinting at Del Mar on Nov. 12 and promptly won the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos on Dec. 10 under Prat. This year, she has reeled off victories at Santa Anita in the Las Virgenes (G3), the Santa Ysabel (G3) and the Santa Anita Oaks (G2).
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert noted that this will be her first race outside of California, where his stable is based. Faiza could give Baffert a record-tying fourth victory in the Black-Eyed Susan. He has a 3-0-1 record from seven starters. His wins were with Hall of Famer Silverbulletday in 1999, Yearly Report (2004) and Fiftyshadesofhay (2013). The three trainers with four wins are all in the Hall of Fame, too: “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons, D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher.
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“She’s very professional. She’s got a really good mind,” Baffert said. “Every time Prat rides he says there is so much more in the tank because she doesn’t win by a lot. I think it’s going to be a step up. She will be running against more horses, so you never know. But she’s doing really well.”
Faiza broke out of her win-by-a-little-bit mode in the Santa Anita Oaks with a 6 ½-length score.
“She was really on when he asked her to go. I trained her a little bit stiffer for that one because I figured it was going to be a tougher race,” Baffert said. “She looks great. She’s healthy. She’s really in the zone right now. I think she would have been tough in the (Kentucky) Oaks, but we’ll find out in the Black-Eyed Susan.”
Petersen’s Adare Manor finished second by 1¼ lengths as the 2-1 favorite in last year’s running of the Black-Eyed Susan. It continued a recent trend of favorites losing in the Black-Eyed Susan. It’s a remarkable statistic: Royal Delta in 2011 is the only favorite to win in the past 17 runnings of the race.
Faiza was a $725,000 auction purchase at last May’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-olds in training sale in Timonium. Petersen had previously purchased, among others, champion Gamine out of the 2019 edition of that sale. This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mage, came from the same event.
The race has drawn a field of 12 prior to scratches. The only other runners in single digits are the Brad Cox-trained Merlazza (6-1) and Balpool (8-1), trained by Rob Atras.