PIMLICO PICKS AND PONDERINGS: may 19, 2023
In which we pick the races from Pimlico each day…
Post time: 11:30 a.m.
Carryovers: Rainbow Jackpot Pick 6 —$10,576 Super High 5 — $1,795
Late Pick 5 — $0
Check out our other handicapping here!
RACE 1: ALLOWANCE (N/W1X), 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 1 1/8 MILES (GRASS)
Happy Black-Eyed Susan day! We’ve got 14 races on today’s program. This race begins the first of five (yes, five) pick 5s offered on today’s card. They start with every odd-numbered race up to race 9. #13 Battle of Normandy (5-2) was odds-on in his season debut at Keeneland last out, and closed well for second after a wide trip. The $500,000 yearling purchase ran a brisnet figure of 88 that day, matching his career-best. If he keeps moving forward off that race, he’ll be tough. #14 Crisper (12-1) ran no worse than an 84 in three straight aces to end his grass season, coming from well out of it to get slices every time. He runs the risk of getting caught in traffic in this large field, but he has great closing speed and should get at least a minor share. On the other hand, #5 Evan Harlan (7-2) is the primary speed threat in the field. He’s hung in there for a while against better in recent starts, and looks fast enough to clear to the front and get the trip he wants.
RACE 2: ALLOWANCE OPTIONAL CLAIMING (N/W2X), 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 6 FURLONGS
#4 Ruggs (5-2) improved with each race at the Oaklawn Park meet. Though he couldn’t run down the impressive sprinter Go West, who has won four times already this year, in his last start, he pulled clear of the others and finished a strong second with a career-best 93. He should rate near #7 Cees Get Degrees (2-1), one of two shipping down here for David Jacobson. He was pressed on the pace and faded in his last few starts, but here, he looks fast enough to outkick everyone and be loose on the lead. From there, it’s a matter of how long he can last. #5 Going to the Lead (6-1) showed little first off the claim for Michael Gorham, but ran back-to-back figures in the 90s in his prior starts and won at this level four races ago.
- Nick’s Turf 10: Busy weekendFour weekend turf stakes for sophomores impacted the latest edition of Nick’s Turf 10, with the top-ranked runners running like it.
RACE 3: MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT, 3, 4, AND 5-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES AND MARES, 5 FURLONGS (GRASS)
In a race without much established grass form, two horses have really proven themselves on the lawn. #1 Up for It (7-2) made her first start off a six-month layoff last out at Gulfstream Park, and rallied for second, losing only to an odds-on Pletcher trainee. This one was a determined second on debut last August behind stakes-placed Skylar’s Sister. #2 Watch This Birdie (4-1) ran a solid 84 first time out on grass at Colonial Downs last July. She’s stopped after showing speed while wide in her last two starts on dirt, but a return to the grass and an inside draw should help the cause. #16 Roman Goddess (6-1) closed respectably well in her first start on grass at Aqueduct last out and will try to build off of that race.
RACE 4: ALLAIRE DUPONT DISTAFF STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 1 1/8 MILES
The first of six stakes on today’s card is named for the legendary mid-Atlantic owner and breeder, best known for campaigning Kelso. This looks like a two-horse race on paper. #6 Falconet (5-2) has hit the exacta in eight of her nine career starts. In the Top Flight Stakes at Aqueduct last out, she enjoyed a great trip just off the pace and held off Kathleen O. for an impressive win. Her figure of 104 that day is a career-best by seven points. Here, she looks fast enough to get to the early lead if Irad Ortiz Jr. wants it. #2 Interstatedaydream (1-1) returns to the scene of her greatest triumph. She won last year’s Black-Eyed Susan, and followed it up with a game win in the Iowa Oaks. She improved her figure slightly in the Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland last out, running a 95 second off a long layoff, although she didn’t have much late punch. Her best hope is that Falconet tires on the lead. #1 La Da Vida (7-2) has shown decent closing speed in her last few starts and looks like clearly the best of the rest.
RACE 5: ALLOWANCE OPTIONAL CLAIMING (N/W2X), 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 5 FURLONGS (GRASS)
#3 Laugh and Play (12-1) looks for a rebound off two dull races in a row. Last year, she won three races in a row on grass and ran a game second in her final start of the season at Keeneland. Her best race likely wins this. #6 American Starlet (5-2) makes her first start of the year for Wesley Ward. She ran an 85 twice in her final three starts of last year, putting her right up there with the other main contenders, and she has blazing early speed that will almost certainly put her on the front end. From there, it’s a matter of how long she can last. #10 Gastown Babe (12-1) is also racing first off a long break, but recovered from a bad start to get up and win a first-level race to cap her 2022 season. She’s loaded with upside.
RACE 6: ALLOWANCE (N/W1X), 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 6 FURLONGS
#1 Royal Whisper (2-1) made her first start off a 10-month layoff last out against Maryland-bred allowance rivals. She broke slowly and fell well behind the early pace, allowing Brzina to open up a three-length lead while clicking off a first quarter in 22.68. Although Royal Whisper rallied well for second, she had no hope of winning after that. She should move forward in her second start of the year, and will likely get a pace to run into. She’s run no worse than an 88 in her last two starts. #3 Italian Dressing (6-1) has the best late pace figures in the field, and won at six furlongs three races ago. As such, we know the distance shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance for this mare, who won going a mile with a strong rail rally last out. #7 Liquidator (6-1) prompted the pace three-wide last out and held well for second, losing only to the precocious Happy Clouds, who we’ll see later today in the Miss Preakness Stakes. This one will likely get a similar trip as last time.
- Keri Brion looking to make a splash at Delaware ParkKeri Brion is best known as a steeplechase trainer, but with a string at Delaware Park, she’s looking to make her name in the flat racing world.
RACE 7: ALLOWANCE OPTIONAL CLAIMING (N/W2X), 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 1 1/16 MILES (GRASS)
#1 You Must Chill (10-1) ran two figures in the 90s on grass to end his season in Pennsylvania. He returned to the races in the off-the-grass Henry S. Clark Stakes, and prompted the pace before stopping badly. He now returns to the lawn and should improve second time out. Besides, how often do you get 10-1 on a Jamie Ness/Jaime Rodriguez horse? #5 Shadow Sphinx (5-2) plunges in class for Mike Maker. He faced graded stakes company in his last two starts at Gulfstream Park, and now drops in for the $40,000 optional claiming tag. His best race wins this without much of a problem, but he’ll likely have to thread his way through traffic. #4 Chulainn (4-1) makes his season debut for Graham Motion after two months of workouts at Fair Hill. This one won two of three starts to end his season, with figures in the 90s in both of those wins He rated off slow paces in both those outings and got up for desperate wins both times. He’ll likely rate the trip and battle it out in the stretch once again.
RACE 8: ALLOWANCE OPTIONAL CLAIMING (N/W1X), 3-YEAR-OLDS, 6 FURLONGS
The back half of the card begins here. #4 Cartographer (6-1) relished the class drop in his last start, dropping from mains at Keeneland to maidens at Belterra Park. He beat the Ohio group by 6 1/2 lengths with an impressive 91. He should rate off the pace once again and draw off. Maryland Million Nursery champion #6 Johnyz From Albany (5-2) makes his (at least for me) long-awaited return to the races. He drew off impressively to win the Nursery with a strong 93, then set the pace and held second in the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes in his most recent. He’s had three bullet workouts in five timed drills since going back to work in mid-April, and adds lasix for the first time. #2 Fort Warren (7-5) will take a lot of money because of his gaudy class lines, but his third in the San Vicente Stakes was in essentially a Bob Baffert exhibition. He’s had a few stops and starts since joining the Brittany Russell barn in February, and makes his first start in more than three months here. He has a shot, but it’s hard to endorse at a low price.
RACE 9: THE VERY ONE STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 5 FURLONGS (GRASS)
This race is named for the top mare of the 1970s. She started her career in Maryland, won three stakes races here, and was second in the 1980 Washington D.C. International. It also begins the final pick 5 of the day. #2 Train to Artemus (3-1) ran some big figures earlier in the year, but couldn’t make it to the front and showed little in the Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland last out. Since that start, she’s had two good workouts at Monmouth Park, including a bullet drill on Sunday, going five furlongs in 59 seconds. She looks ripe for a rebound. #4 Can the Queen (6-1) has not raced this year, but loves this track. She’s won three stakes races on the Pimlico sod, including last year’s renewal of this race. #3 Lemos Cunha (15-1) also has some great recent works and has shown tremendous closing speed in the past. Her two most recent starts against stakes company at Turfway Park were dull, but she has it in her to get a slice at a price.
RACE 10: MISS PREAKNESS STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 6 FURLONGS
Bill Parcells’s #6 Maple Leaf Mel (1-1) has barely been challenged in her three-race career. She’s won all her starts at odds-on by a combined 16 1/4 lengths. She made her 3-year-old debut in the East View Stakes at Aqueduct last out, and soundly trounced the field, which included a pair of next-out winners in Security Code and Les Bon Temps. She’s facing her stiffest challenge today in the form of #2 Key of Life (8-5), coming off back-to-back stakes wins. She kicked away late in the Beaumont Stakes last out and almost got caught. They have very similar form, so it might come down to whoever’s the better price. #4 Afternoon Tea (8-1) stalked the pace and got up to break her maiden at second asking at Keeneland last out. If Maple Leaf Mel and Key of Life, both of whom have early speed, end up burning each other out, this one will be there to take advantage.
RACE 11: HILLTOP STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 1 MILE (GRASS)
This race pays tribute to Pimlico’s nickname, “Old Hilltop”. #11 Well Into (5-1) started her 2023 campaign with back-to-back gate-to-wire wins at Gulfstream, but was challenged for the lead and ended up beaten two lengths. She’s run an 84 and an 85 in her last two races; no one else in here has ever run higher than an 83. #1 Breath Away (2-1) most recently won the Sanibel Island Stakes with a sharp closing kick. Breaking from the rail without early speed, she might get herself caught in a traffic jam. Noentheless, she’s displayed strong late speed in her two grass wins when clear. #3 Aspray (8-1) came from off a moderate pace to win against allowance company at Tampa Bay Downs last out. She now gets her class test.
RACE 12: PIMLICO SPECIAL STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 1 3/16 MILES
A solid field lines up for this historic event, though there aren’t many local runners. #7 Speed Bias (8-1) has a fitting name, as he possesses lots of early speed in a race without too much of it. He went gate-to-wire to win impressively at Oaklawn Park to begin his 2023 season, then finished a game second to Smile Happy, who most recently won the Alysheba Stakes, next out. He should be able to get to the front, and with the right pace setup, he’ll be long gone. #2 Rattle N Roll (9-5) had a quietly impressive campaign last year, winning three stakes races. He won the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland last out despite regressing to a 99, his lowest figure in his last five starts. He has a big class edge over these, but must stay close to the pace. #5 Law Professor (5-2) has won two stakes races this year, both of them with similar stalk-and-pounce trips. He’ll rate near Speed Bias, and if that one falters, he’ll be there to but in a good far-turn move.
RACE 13: GEORGE E. MITCHELL BLACK-EYED SUSAN STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 1 1/8 MILES
Today’s featured event is named for the official flower of the Preakness and a Baltimore community leader who passed away in 2020. Note that Miracle was scratched earlier in the week. All eyes will be on #9 Faiza (7-5) in this one, and deservedly so. Michael Petersen did not transfer this filly out of Bob Baffert’s barn prior to the Kentucky Oaks, otherwise, she would’ve been one of the favorites. She’s a perfect 5-for-5 has and won both of her recent races easily. She’s getting better all the time and shouldn’t have much trouble with these. #10 Taxed (15-1) got boxed in the Fantasy Stakes last out but recovered to finish a game second at 33-1. Her only bad race this year came when she was wide on a sloppy track in the Honeybee Stakes. She won’t have to worry about the latter, but the former could be an issue. Nonetheless, she provides excellent value. #1 Sacred Wish (10-1) raced with throughout in the Gulfstream Park Oaks last out, but still ran on well and won a photo for second. She’s lightly-raced with lots of upside.
RACE 14: MAIDEN CLAIMING $45,000, 3, 4, AND 5-YEAR-OLDS, 5 FURLONGS (GRASS)
Caravel’s half-brother, #4 Mission Man (10-1), doesn’t have much aptitude for dirt, as he’s been well-beaten in his last two starts on that surface. He now returns to grass, a surface on which he showed some promise on last year, with two figures in the 70s. He’s ripe for improvement. #2 Covert Kat (4-1) lost by less than a length at Gulfstream, closing well despite getting caught in traffic late. He’s cutting back around one turn. #6 Certain (9-2) also cuts back from a mile He flattened out going long last out, but ran some solid figures in two sprints earlier in the Gulfstream meet. Both times, he chased the pace and held on for an exotics spot.