On Thursday, Pimlico ushers in Preakness (G1) weekend with a trio of sprint stakes, anchored by the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes (G3) for sophomores on the main track.
Unbeaten Amsterdam (G2) winner Yaupon has been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite. The Steve Asmussen trainee is the one to beat in the 6-furlong dash, an easier spot than his alternative of Friday’s Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland (a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint [G1]). Yaupon has drawn post 9 of 10 in the Chick Lang with John Velazquez named to ride.
Asmussen’s other entrant, Little Menace, landed on the rail as a 20-1 chance with Joe Bravo. Runner-up in the Gazebo at Oaklawn, he stretched out to wire the Grand Prairie Derby at Lone Star, but now reverts in trip after a pair of disappointing efforts including the Robert Hilton Memorial. The respective top three from that two-turn Charles Town stakes – Relentless Dancer, Pitching Ari, and Lebda (who was briefly entertaining the Preakness) – are set to renew rivalry around one turn here.
Dreams Untold was a far better-than-appears fifth to Lebda in the Feb. 15 Miracle Wood, after a wild trip as the 7-10 favorite. The son of Smarty Jones, who represents the same Someday Farm/John Servis connections, ventures back into stakes company off a sharp allowance tally.
Double Crown, hero of two Gulfstream Park stakes, exits a third versus elders in the Smile Sprint (G3). Multiple New York-bred stakes winner Captain Bombastic was a creditable fourth in his only graded attempt, the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga. Arkaan, third to Preakness-bound Pneumatic when trying a route in the Pegasus, brings a 2-for-2 mark at this distance. Blackberry Wine, once on the Kentucky Derby trail early in the season, resumes from a nearly six-month layoff for Joe Sharp.
Turf speedsters are in focus on the undercard, beginning with the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes over 5 furlongs. Trainer Peter Miller has entered Grade 2 hero Texas Wedge, the 9-5 favorite looking to rebound from a subpar 10th in the Shakertown (G2) at Keeneland (where he’s nominated to Saturday’s Woodford [G3]). Tiger Blood has yet to win since Mike Maker claimed him four starts ago, but the 5-furlong specialist could find this spot more congenial. Leading Maryland-based hopes include defending champion Completed Pass, most recently successful in the Laurel Dash, and late-developing 3-year-old Francatelli, who just wired the King Corrie in course record-equaling time at Woodbine.
The corresponding $100,000 event for distaffers, The Very One Stakes, has lured an overflow field of 16. Wesley Ward’s Jo Jo Air, second as the 11-10 favorite to Wild About Star in the 2019 running, captured the Daisycutter at Del Mar in her latest. Ward has another in the line-up in Foolish Humor, but no rider is listed. Arnaud Delacour is double-handed with classy veteran Chalon, who would be making her turf debut, and Ode to Joy.
Peaceful warrants respect off a pair of solid efforts at Saratoga, while Hear My Prayer has not raced since scoring in the Melody of Colors at Gulfstream back in March. Multiple stakes-placed A Great Time enters in good form for Mike Trombetta, and her stablemate Never Enough Time, who beat Chalon in the Alma North last out, is the main track-only entrant. Kelly Breen’s Monmouth shipper Tracy Ann’s Legacy is an equal-opportunity contender, but Giggling has been much better on dirt so far.