Updated on 09/16/2011 7:22AM

New pace scenario in 'Susan'


BALTIMORE - Twice this winter at Fair Grounds, Take Charge Lady scored overpowering victories against Chamrousse. Both were entered in Friday's $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, in which Take Charge Lady would have been an overwhelming favorite, but Take Charge Lady was forced to withdraw because of a minor illness.

As a result, Chamrousse becomes the solid favorite in Pimlico Race Course's premier race for 3-year-old fillies, a race that is to Saturday's Preakness Stakes what the Kentucky Oaks is to the Kentucky Derby. The Black-Eyed Susan, however, lacks the cachet of the Oaks, and has a field lacking any real star power.

Chamrousse will be seeking the first graded stakes victory of her career in the Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan. She has finished third in three straight graded stakes races - including against Take Charge Lady in the Silverbulletday and Fair Grounds Oaks - after winning her first two starts. She has not raced since April 12, when she was beaten by a length in the Fantasy Stakes.

"After we lost to Take Charge Lady the first time, being a hard-headed Irishman, I tried it again," said Niall O'Callaghan, the trainer of Chamrousse. "We were a little surprised she came back in, and we were considering other options, but then she scratched."

Jerry Bailey will ride Chamrousse for the first time.

Take Charge Lady would have been the controlling speed in the Black-Eyed Susan. In her absence, Chamrousse figures to be much closer to an expected moderate pace that likely will be set by two local runners, Autumn Creek and Shop Till You Drop.

Autumn Creek has made a complete form reversal since arriving at Pimlico and stretching out around two turns. She has won two straight with front-running performances, against maidens and first-level allowance horses, while inheriting easy leads in soft-paced races.

Shop Till You Drop has displayed improved speed since adding blinkers. She has won her last two starts, including the minor Wide Country Stakes at Laurel her last time out on March 10. Since she is drawn inside of Autumn Creek, she figures to make the running, but Chamrousse should be right on their heels.

Charitabledonation won two straight races during the latter part of Gulfstream's elongated meeting, including the Christmas Past Stakes on April 21. She drew the advantageous rail, from which she should get a stalking trip.

"With Take Charge Lady in there, I thought it was a pretty big step, but now I think it's a good spot," said Mark Hennig, who trains Charitabledonation. "I just had a sense it was going to work out."

- additional reporting by David Grening.

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