05/20/2011 2:48PM

Playing the Black Eyed Susan Pick-5

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2:45 pm: A five-filly field in the Black-Eyed Susan and a pair of towering favorites in two other stakes give the Pick-5 sequence at Pimlico today the look of a potential chalkfest -- unless you can beat Final Mesa in the Miss Preakness Stakes and Rose Catherine in the The Very One.

The sequence begins at 4:08 pm ET with the 9th of today's 13 races, the Miss Preakness at six furlongs for 3-year-old fillies. Final Mesa has been off since January 5th, when she came off a five-month layoff to win the G3 Old Hat over Pomeroy's Pistol. She obviously has her issues, with just one start since last August, but a repeat of her Old Hat performance would towrope this field. She has run well fresh before and she's been working bullets at Keeneland.

The second leg is the Black-Eyed Susan, which is down to a field of five after the scratch of longshot Coax Liberty. Even so, a case can be made for any of the three favorites: Wyomia comes off a strong second in the Ashland, Hot Summer could get loose in a paceless field, and Royal Delta could well have the most talent of them all.

Rose Catherine has lost her last three starts after going 6-for-6 against filly turf sprinters, but two of those defeats were against males (including the BC Turf Sprint) and the other was an off-the-turfer. Anything remotely resembling her best races should win The Very One. The last two legs lack a short-priced favorite, but appear to have only three or four strong win candidates.

Here's my cheat-sheet for the sequence with preliminary grades. I'll play for the action, but I can't see getting too heavily involved:

 

 The Black-Eyed Susan, scheduled to go at 4:46 pm ET, will be shown on a one-hour telecast on NBC-owned Versus from 4 to 5 pm.

 

4:15 pm: As discussed in the comments below, NYRA Rewards is not offering the 50-cent Pimlico bets at less than a $1 minimum today. That development, and my not wanting to get heavily involved, reduced me to one caveman ticket that fortunately included Miss Preakness winner R Holiday Mood along with Final Mesa, who tired late to finish 4th at 4-5. 

The $288 play: 9,10/1,2,4/6,7,9/1,3,4,9/2,3,5,7

Half an hour until the five-horse Black-Eyed Susan, which is shrinking in importance with each passing year. Not a single Kentucky Oaks starter is running back. Pimlico may want to consider making a reinstated Pimlico Special -- a better use of its funds than the inane Magna 5.5 Bonus -- as the centerpiece of its day-before-Preakness program. 

 

5:00 pm: Royal Delta is still growing into her frame and learning how to run, but the very promising 3-year-old filly took another step forward winning her first stakes in the Black-Eyed Susan. The daughter of Empire Maker sat a perfect trip in fourth as Wyomia surprisingly pushed Hot Summer through solid fractions. Royal Delta slipped through at the rail on the stretch turn, loafed a little when she made the lead, then finished well to pull away from Buster's Ready. She paid $5.60 as a slight faborite over 9-5 Wyomia and 2-1 Hot Summer.

 

5:15 pm: In a post-race interview, trainer Bill Mott said the June 11 Acorn was a little too soon for Royal Delta's next start and that he would probably wait for the Mother Goose, which is only two weeks later this year on June 25. Just as there is now little connection between Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan, the first two legs of the "old" filly triple crown, there's also less and less between the first two legs of what used to be the New York filly triple crown of the Acorn, Mother Goose and CCA Oaks. Three of those races are still called the NY filly triple tiara, but I have no idea which three and that seems to change from year to year based on sponsorships.

 

5:42 pm: Pimlico was living dangerously when it carded six grass races for today and six more for tomorrow but it appears the rain that soaked it Thursday night is done and the forecast is clear for Preakness Day. Still, the course is playing very slowly: A maiden race for fillies early on the card went in 1:52.87 -- for a mile and a sixteenth -- or nearly 13 seconds over the course record. In the The Very One, last year's runner-up, Suzzona, scored in 1:00.41 -- more than five seconds off the course record. Last year sge was beaten a neck in 56.56.

 

6:30 pm: Excited ($5.60) romped as the favorite in the Hilltop Stakes to complete a $1,404.00 (for $1) pick-5 and provide a little more ammo for Preakness Day. Don't forget: First post tomorrow is 10:30 a.m. The early pick-4, guaranteed at $250k, begins with the 5th race at 12:53 pm ET.