05/13/2015 11:56AM

Luminance gets chance to shine in Black-Eyed Susan

Barbara D. Livingston
Luminance trained at Churchill Downs (above) but skipped the Kentucky Oaks for Friday's Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

BALTIMORE – The Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan shares center stage with the Pimlico Special on a seven-stakes Preakness eve card at Pimlico on Friday.

For 3-year-old fillies, the Black-Eyed Susan will have a $250,000 purse, the same as it did in 2011. The race was worth $500,000 the last two years and in 2012 had a value of $300,000.

A daily double will link the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan with Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Trainer Bob Baffert will have heavy favorites in both races, Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah in the Preakness and Luminance in the Black-Eyed Susan.

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Luminance races for Kaleem Shah, who will be represented by Dortmund in the Preakness. Luminance will be making her fourth start, and Baffert hopes to use the Black-Eyed Susan as a means of getting her to the Grade 1, $750,000 Acorn on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 6.

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Luminance rallied from well off the pace to emphatically win her debut at Del Mar last summer before sore shins sent her to the sidelines. She has been versatile this year, coming from off the pace following a slow start to win a first-level allowance going a mile at Santa Anita and then controlling the pace in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks before giving way to Stellar Wind in the stretch and finishing second.

Baffert expects her to be near the pace Friday.

“In her first start of the year, she broke slow and didn’t have any other choice but to come from off the pace,” Baffert said. “In her other race, she shot out of there and went to the front with another horse. She has a lot of speed. I think she’ll be pretty forwardly placed.”

Baffert had considered Luminance for the Kentucky Oaks – she worked four times at Churchill Downs – but ultimately chose to wait for the Black-Eyed Susan.

“I think she’s going to make a very nice miler, and we’ve been looking for a race that will set her up for the Acorn,” he said. “I thought about the Oaks, but I was concerned she didn’t have enough seasoning and that it was too competitive. The track at Churchill was a little deep and loose.”

A crowd of 34,756 attended last year’s Black-Eyed Susan Day card. A new promotion ontrack this year is the $30,000 Bet Like A Girl all-female handicapper challenge and seminar, featuring Christina Bossinakis of Gulfstream Park, Caton Bredar of HRTV, Donna Brothers of NBC, Jeannine Edwards of ESPN, Gabby Gaudet of Pimlico, and Maggie Wolfendale of the New York Racing Association.

The handicapping challenge replaces the Lady Legends, a race featuring female jockeys that was intended to raise awareness of the fight against breast cancer.

First post is noon Eastern on Friday.

Key contenders

Luminance (Last 3 Beyers: 86-81-87)

◗ The 1 1/8-mile distance is a sixteenth of a mile longer than Luminance has ever raced.

Ahh Chocolate (Beyers: 82-73)

◗ Trained by Neil Howard, she is the most lightly raced filly in the race, having made only two starts. She has made off-the-pace runs to win a Fair Grounds maiden race and a Keeneland allowance.

“Her last win was a good race, and she exited it very well,” Howard said. “But she’s only run twice, and this is a tough race. It’s kind of a jump up. But we’ve been looking to take a step up in her next race. The timing of this race was good for her.”

◗ Howard said the nine-furlong distance is a plus for Ahh Chocolate, a daughter of Candy Ride.

“You would think she would like 1 1/8 miles the way she has run, by her pedigree, and by looking at her physically,” he said.

Include Betty (Last 3 Beyers: 82-86-78)

◗ She falls far back early in her races. She came from 11th to win the Fantasy at Oaklawn and from ninth to win the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Tom Proctor.

◗ In the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago, she finished eighth while forced to steady in tight quarters several times in the final furlong.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 5 Include Betty. Trainer Tom Proctor is 14-0-0-0 over the past five years in graded stakes on dirt when making a jockey change. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Gypsy Judy (Last 3 Beyers: 70-73-70)

◗ She is cross-entered in the Hilltop Stakes on turf but is going to run in the Black-Eyed Susan, according to trainer Robin Graham.

◗ Although her Beyer Speed Figures are lower than some of the top players in this race, her 3 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Wide Country Stakes on Feb. 16 and her 7 3/4-length maiden win Jan. 8 were visually impressive.

Danessa Deluxe (Last 3 Beyers: 86-76-66)

◗ In her lone start this year, she finished third, beaten two lengths, in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 28 for trainer Jorge Navarro.

Sweetgrass (Last 3 Beyers: 78-70-75)

◗ She has won a Gulfstream allowance and a Keeneland allowance for trainer Ian Wilkes in her last two starts.

◗ This race will be her two-turn debut.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 6 Sweetgrass. Trainer Ian Wilkes is 17-7-4-2 with a $3.24 ROI over the past five years going sprint to route on dirt with last-out winners. Click for more details. Mike Hogan

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Pure. Trainer James Cassidy is 39-9-9-3 with a $3.99 ROI over the past five years in the start following a maiden victory. Click for more details. Mike Hogan