Todd Pletcher is currently tied with his former mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, with four victories in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2). He will have a good chance of moving ahead on Friday when Always Shopping takes on eight rivals in the historic 1 1/8-mile test for three-year-old fillies at Pimlico.
Owned by Mike Repole, for whom Pletcher saddled Stopchargingmaria to win the 2014 Black-Eyed Susan, Always Shopping will enter off back-to-back victories in the Gazelle (G2) and $100,000 Busanda at Aqueduct. Despite earning sufficient qualifying points to run in the May 3 Kentucky Oaks (G1), connections decided to point for this race instead.
“This seems like a natural progression for her,” Pletcher said. “She’s improved each spot, and two turns and 1 1/8 miles seems to suit her well. Everything has gone well for her since the Gazelle.”
Pletcher also sends out Off Topic, two lengths third in the Gazelle in what was her first stakes attempt,
“I was pleased with her effort, but she’s one that is still putting all her potential together,” Pletcher said. “She broke better in the Gazelle than she had and put herself in a tractable position. She still has not run to her full potential.”
Point of Honor is an interesting candidate. The daughter of Curlin captured her first two outings, including the $100,000 Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs, but didn’t have the same kick when fourth to Champagne Anyone in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).
“The track was playing like a conveyor belt that day and she seemed a little different than she was at Tampa…but she ran well,” trainer George Weaver said.
The pace of the Black-Eyed Susan should be provided by multiple stakes winner Cookie Dough, who ran second in the Davona Dale (G2) and third in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, and Keeneland allowance winner Ulele.
Other notables in the field include Las Setas, the leading Maryland-based filly with three stakes wins at Laurel; multiple graded-placed Brill, third in the Fantasy (G3) last out; and Sweet Diane, who finished third in both the Fair Grounds Oaks (G3) and Suncoast. One Super Freak, who’s been chasing Las Setas all winter and spring, completes the lineup.
The Black-Eyed Susan is the 11th of 14 races on the Preakness eve program.
There are two other stakes for three-year-old fillies on Friday’s card, the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) at six furlongs and the $100,000 Hilltop at one mile on the turf.
A competitive, full field was entered for the Miss Preakness. The Bob Baffert-trained Fighting Mad and the locally-based Never Enough Time make their respective stakes debuts after winning their first two starts, while recent Keeneland allowance winner Covfefe was fourth at odds-on in the Frizette (G1) last October in her lone previous stakes attempt. Local stakes winners Please Flatter Me and Congrats Gal return from longer layoffs.
Trainer Chad Brown has a duo for the Hilltop. The German-bred Nova Sol makes her first start since October when she ran third in the Prix des Reservoirs (G3) at Deauville. Brown’s other filly is Dogtag, who won the $100,000 P.G. Johnson at Saratoga last summer before finishing a distant fourth to stablemate Newspaperofrecord in the Miss Grillo (G2).