05/16/2007 12:00AM

Baroness Thatcher seeks rebound


BALTIMORE - Baroness Thatcher was pretty game in chasing Rags to Riches in back-to-back Grade 1 races this winter, so the filly disappointed quite a few horseplayers last month at Keeneland when she finished a non-threatening fifth at 2-1 in the Beaumont Stakes.

There's a story behind that story, however, and when Baroness Thatcher makes her return to action Friday at Pimlico Race Course in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, she will do so after having recovered from a minor injury suffered during the Beaumont.

"She got cut in her tendon," said Patrick Biancone, trainer of Baroness Thatcher. "She got six stitches in her right hind. Fortunately, she recovered very quickly. Some horses' legs balloon, but hers did not. But that is why she ran poorly."

Without Rags to Riches, the Kentucky Oaks winner, facing her in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, and with her leg healed, Baroness Thatcher looks like a deserving favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race. Before the Beaumont, her three efforts at Santa Anita were solid: a win in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel, a second in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes, and a fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. Garrett Gomez, who rode in Maryland as an apprentice in the late 1980s, has the call.

The two fillies drawn just to the inside of Baroness Thatcher look like her main challengers: Winning Point (post 1, Luis Garcia) and Panty Raid (post 2, Edgar Prado).

Winning Point, locally based with veteran trainer Eddie Gaudet, opened her career with three straight wins, all at Laurel Park, then legitimized those races by

finishing second, beaten by just

1 1/2 lengths by Boca Grande in her stakes debut, the Grade 2 Comely on April 14 at Aqueduct.

Panty Raid, trained by Todd Pletcher, comes off two sharp efforts over Polytrack surfaces in Kentucky. She was a fast-closing second to Sealy Hill in the Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park, even after breaking through the gate before the start. She then was a game winner of an April 13 allowance route at Keeneland.

The balance of the Black-Eyed Susan field, from posts 4 to 8, is Enchanting Star, Moon Catcher, Grace Happens, Fibbalator, and Fee Fi Fo Fum.

The Black-Eyed Susan is carded as the 12th of 13 Friday races and will anchor an ESPN2 broadcast of four stakes races. First post Friday is 12:15 p.m. Eastern, with the Black-Eyed Susan set for 5:43. The preceding stakes are the $95,000 The Very One (race 9), the $125,000 Miss Preakness (race 10), and the $200,000 Allaire duPont Breeders' Cup Distaff (race 11). One other stakes, the Whimsical (race 4), will be run earlier in the day and is not part of the ESPN2 telecast.

The Black-Eyed Susan is the leadoff race in Pimlico's annual two-day wager, which this year is the Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness Double. It is also the final leg of a $250,000-guaranteed pick four covering races 9-12.