Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Coach Rocks, only seventh in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), gets right back into action in Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico. The 1 1/8-mile feature has attracted a few other fillies who had been on the Oaks trail before ultimately defecting, making for a competitive affair on Preakness Eve.
Trained by Dale Romans for a partnership including former University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, Coach Rocks took time to figure out the game. But to be fair, the daughter of Oxbow did not get a chance to route on dirt until her seventh try. She promptly crushed a maiden in front-running fashion and followed up with a relentless rally in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Two-for-two in dirt routes going into the Kentucky Oaks, Coach Rocks lost that perfect mark when fading at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Luis Saez was listed as the rider of both Coach Rocks and stablemate C. S. Incharge at entry time. C. S. Incharge captured an earlier points race for the Oaks, the February 10 Suncoast at Tampa, only to throw in a clunker when a remote sixth in the Ashland (G1) last out. The pacey Take Charge Indy filly is a half-sister to Romans notables Cherry Wine, runner-up in the 2016 Preakness (G3), and Grade 3 victress Sweeping Paddy.
Midnight Disguise dropped off the Oaks trail following a non-threatening fourth in the Gazelle (G2), but the Busher and Busanda heroine is eligible to return to top form here. Adding blinkers for Linda Rice, a 25 percent trainer on that equipment chance, she also gets a rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr. Likewise poised to improve from the Gazelle is Kiaran McLauglin’s Sara Street, a hard-trying runner-up when attempting to wire her two-turn debut. The Godolphin homebred by Street Sense and out of Grade 2 winner Sara Louise has upside with a returning Dylan Davis.
Martha Washington winner Red Ruby was taking the Oaklawn path to the Oaks until she was forced to miss the Fantasy (G3) due to a minor mishap. Unraced since her fourth in the March 10 Honeybee (G3), the Kellyn Gorder pupil picks up Paco Lopez. Red Ruby likely has much more to offer as a Tiznow half-sister to Mo Tom and Beautician.
Another Tiznow, Mihrab, may be ready to step up from her previous stakes efforts. A closing third to C. S. Incharge in the Suncoast, the Graham Motion filly was out of sorts when a long-way ninth behind Coach Rocks in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. Reverting to allowance company and dominating at Laurel, however, may serve as a confidence boost for this return to graded company.
Laurel-based Goodonehoney booked her Black-Eyed Susan ticket by airing in the “Win and You’re In” Weber City Miss, passing a distance as well as class test off a debut maiden claiming win for Jason Egan. This obviously represents another level of competition. Not to be overlooked is Weber City Miss runner-up Indy Union, a Jeremiah Englehart shipper who closed from far out of it in her comeback. Although the Union Rags filly has class concerns too, she did finish third to champion Caledonia Road in a maiden, romped at Belmont Park, and inspired enough regard to try the Miss Grillo (G3) and Demoiselle (G2). Jose Ortiz, her pilot in four of six starts, reunites with Indy Union. Also coming off the Weber City Miss is Stakes on a Plane, adding Lasix in the wake of her sixth (demoted from fourth).
Rounding out the field is Loooch Racing Stables’ Tell Your Mama, on the board in five of 10 outings but still a maiden.
While the Black-Eyed Susan takes center stage on Friday’s banner seven-stakes card, three-year-old fillies of other specialties will also be showcased.
The $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) has attracted a strong group of sprinters. Matron (G3) winner Happy Like a Fool, runner-up in Royal Ascot’s Queen Mary (G2) last summer, reappeared with a fourth in the Beaumont (G3) over about seven furlongs at Keeneland. The Wesley Ward filly figures to appreciate turning back to six furlongs. Almond Roca is another likely to prefer shortening up after a sixth in the grassy Florida Oaks (G3). At Tampa earlier this winter, the Motion trainee looked like a star on the rise when capturing the Sandpiper and Gasparilla sprinting on the main track.
Unbeaten Artistic Diva, last seen landing the Anoakia at Santa Anita, kicks off her sophomore campaign for John Sadler, and Lezendary exits back-to-back scores at Aqueduct including the March 25 Cicada. But Brad Cox’s stakes debutante Good Move could be a match for them all, as the Klein homebred has romped in both of her starts.
Motion holds a formidable hand in the $100,000 Hilltop, with a three-pronged attack on the mile turf test led by Thewayiam. Sweeping the Gulfstream Park series comprising the Ginger Brew, Sweetest Chant (G3), and Herecomesthebride (G3), the French import beat all but Breeders’ Cup vixen Rushing Fall in the Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland in her latest.
Providing back-up are two recent allowance winners. Peach of a Gal rebounded from an eighth in the Florida Oaks to clear her entry-level condition at Laurel. New recruit Secret Message was acquired by Madaket Stables following her score over Turfway’s Polytrack, and the daughter of Hat Trick is bred to prosper on the lawn. Among those looking to repel the Motion phalanx are two others who flubbed the Florida Oaks – Lael Stables’ homebred Jehozacat, a daughter of Tapit and Precious Kitten, and Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Souper Striking, previously the winner of two straight at Gulfstream.