05/18/2011 1:55PM

Black-Eyed Susan: Late runner Hot Summer merits slight edge in well-matched field


BALTIMORE – The day before the biggest race of the year in Maryland doesn’t draw nearly as large an ontrack crowd as the 100,000-plus they get in Kentucky. Still, there are apt comparisons of Preakness eve to Derby eve: Both feature a big race for 3-year-old fillies amid the palpable excitement of an impending Triple Crown event.

Those factors alone should help to make Friday an enjoyable day at the races for the 20,000 or so who turn out at Pimlico Race Course for the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, a Grade 2 race that helps to set an upbeat mood for the 136th Preakness the following afternoon.

Hot Summer, a rail-skimming winner of the Grade 3 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct in her last start April 9, is one of the top contenders in the Black Eyed Susan, a 1 1/8-mile race that often catapults its winner into the upper echelon of the 3-year-old filly division. Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Hot Summer when she breaks from post 2 in a field of six.

“I’m pretty confident with her,” said David Fawkes, who trains Hot Summer for Harold Queen. “I think she’s had enough time” since the Comely. “Ramon worked her the other day and loved her.”

The Comely victory “was a game race,” added Fawkes. “There wasn’t a whole lot of room and she wasn’t intimidated. She took dirt in her face.”

The distance of the Black-Eyed Susan is farther than any of the field has ever raced, and Fawkes is optimistic that will play in their favor “because of the way she runs. She sits off it. Ramon will be an asset to her.”

Actually, the balance of the opposition appears nearly as capable in what shapes up as an extremely well-matched race.

Royal Delta (post 1, Jose Lezcano) looked terrific in rebounding from a poor effort to win an April 15 allowance at Keeneland for Bill Mott, who briefly was tempted to run her in the Kentucky Oaks before deciding to wait for this.

Wyomia (post 4, Julien Leparoux) was good enough to run second in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland last month. Trained by Curtis Garrison, Wyomia is named for someone more famous for being fleet of foot: Wyomia Tyus, the women’s 100-meter dash champion at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics.

Love Theway Youare (post 6, Joel Rosario) has come to hand in recent weeks in Southern California, knocking out her maiden and first allowance conditions three Fridays apart. Her owner-trainer, Myung Kwon Cho, stands to earn a measure of solace at a big-weekend event after losing one of the top Kentucky Derby prospects, Premier Pegasus, to injury in early April.

Rounding out the cast are Coax Liberty (post 3, Garrett Gomez) and Buster’s Ready (post 5, John Velazquez), neither of whom looks impossible.

Seven fillies were entered before Art of the Hunt was an early scratch, leaving six.

This will be the 87th running of the Black-Eyed Susan, which dates to 1919. The roster of champions includes such standouts as Nellie Morse (1924), Real Delight (1952), Davona Dale (1979), Serena’s Song (1995), and Silverbulletday (1999). The 2010 winner was Acting Happy, trained by Rick Dutrow.

The Black-Eyed Susan is carded as the 10th of 13 races. First post is noon Eastern, with the feature set for 4:46.

The Black-Eyed Susan anchors a terrific program that also includes four other stakes, the Lady Legends race for retired female riders, and a female jockey challenge.

The jockey challenge is based on a points system and will be held on races 2, 4, 6, and 8, with wagers on the contest available before the second race. The competing riders are Rosie Napravnik, Vicky Baze, Forest Boyce, Chantal Sutherland, Hayley Turner, and Emma-Jayne Wilson.

– additional reporting by David Grening