Trainer Graham Chooses Black-Eyed Susan for Gypsy Judy Lady Sabelia Favored in Skipat, Xmas Sky Takes on Benâ€™s Cat in Jim McKay
BALTIMORE â€“ Though she entered James Hibbertâ€™s homebred Gypsy Judy in a pair of stakes on Friday at Pimlico Race Course, trainer Robin Graham only had one race in mind.
The Laurel Park-based Graham is ready to saddle Gypsy Judy in the 91st running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2). The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies is one of seven stakes on a spectacular 14-race program that includes the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3), $150,000 Allaire DuPont (G3) and $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3).
As part of the day Pimlico is also hosting the Ultimate Girls Day Out with several events dedicated to the spirit and strength of women.
Winner of the seven-furlong Wide Country Stakes Feb. 16 at Laurel, Gypsy Judy will be making her graded debut in the Black-Eyed Susan. She was cross-entered in the $100,000 Hilltop, also for sophomore fillies, going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
â€œIâ€™ve been thinking about the Black-Eyed Susan all along,â€ Graham said. â€œEven when the nominations come out, someone can always stick a supplement in there just to cover our bases, I entered her in the Hilltop, also. I had an opportunity to work her on the grass and everything was great, but we were really thinking about the Black-Eyed Susan. Thereâ€™s always a turf race to go in, but thereâ€™s only one Black-Eyed Susan.â€
In her most recent start, Gypsy Judy ran third behind Grade 1 winner By the Moon in the one-mile Caesarâ€™s Wish Stakes March 21 at Laurel. She didnâ€™t make her career debut until Nov. 20, when she was beaten a neck by Spotted Heart in a Laurel maiden special at six furlongs, with Stellar Wind another half-length back in third.
Spotted Heart went on to win the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes and Stellar Wind has become a multiple-graded stakes winner, including the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) April 4. Second in that race was Luminance, the 9-5 program favorite for the Black-Eyed Susan. Gypsy Judy is listed at 20-1 on the morning line.
â€œWe only have to ship 45 minutes up the road and everyone else has to come a lot further,â€ Graham said. â€œI donâ€™t know who [the public] will make the favorite but I would think Luminance would be one of the top ones. Stellar Wind beat her in California and we beat Stellar Wind. I know a lot has changed since they were babies and first-time starters but, still, it doesnâ€™t look totally ridiculous to try it.â€
Graham has two other horses to run in Black-Eyed Susan Day stakes. Xmas Sky (20-1), a half-brother to Gypsy Judy, will take on Maryland-bred multiple-graded stakes winner Benâ€™s Cat in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, while Lady Sabelia is the even-money morning-line favorite in the $100,000 Skipat.
The McKay is a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up. The Skipat is for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track.
â€œHaving horses to run on that kind of day is really great,â€ Graham said.
Mrs. Frank P. Wrightâ€™s Lady Sabelia had a four-race win streak snapped in the Madison (G1) April 4 at Keeneland, setting a blazing early pace and fading to sixth. She won three straight stakes prior to that, capped by a front-running 1 Â½-length victory in the Feb. 14 Barbara Fritchie (G2).
â€œSheâ€™s just really an honest mare. Sheâ€™s got a ton of class and when you ask her to run, she runs,â€ Graham said. â€œSheâ€™s got enough natural speed to run three-quarters without having to rush. If a horse gets out real fast and wants to open up, thatâ€™s fine. She can sit back and wait. Sheâ€™s doing great.â€
Another Hibbert homebred, Xmas Sky was most recently fifth behind multiple stakes winner Page McKenney in the First Responder Stakes in October at Parx. He cuts back to a sprint for the first time since last May in his 6-year-old debut.
â€œWhen he first started running he was originally running five-eighths all the time. I figured it wasnâ€™t a bad distance to try him,â€ Graham said. â€œIâ€™d have to train him another month to go a mile and a sixteenth. Heâ€™d have to run against those same horses if it was an allowance race, so we figured we may as well go ahead and run that day, see if he can pick up a check and help contribute to the day.â€
Keen Pauline Making Stakes Debut in Black-Eyed Susan
Stonestreet Stable's Keen Pauline has faced stakes-caliber fillies, but not in a stakes race. She'll get her chance Friday when she makes her stakes debut in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2).
â€œThis filly is one that's just coming around, and I'm taking a chance that she has her breakthrough race here,â€ trainer Dale Romans said. â€œShe acts like she's doing good enough to do that, and I've always thought a lot of her. I don't think we've seen the best of her. Hopefully, it's in this race.â€
A Stonestreet Stable homebred, Keen Pauline is a daughter of Pulpit and the Two Punch mare Grand Pauline. The filly has won one of five starts.
As a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs, she finished in front of such fillies as I'm a Chatterbox, an eventual multiple-graded stakes winner at Fair Grounds who ran third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and Fantasy (G2) runner-up Oceanwave, who would finish seventh in the Kentucky Oaks.
This year, Keen Pauline ran third in a Gulfstream Park race won by Eskenformoney, who would go on to the Kentucky Oaks. Keen Pauline debuted in a Saratoga turf race won by Lady Eli, the eventual Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner. Puca, who wound up 12th in the Kentucky Oaks, was third in that maiden race.
â€œShe's run with some good ones and run competitive with them, and I really think she's a good filly,â€ Romans said. â€œAnd I think she's on the verge of breaking out and showing everybody how good she really is.â€
As far as Romans is concerned, he is owed a Black-Eyed Susan victory after a disqualification cost his trainee Smart N Pretty a win in 2006. Smart N Pretty finished first, 3 Â½ lengths in front of jockey Ramon Dominguez and Regal Engagement, but placed second following an inquiry and objection for interference.
Regina Christina, Brendaâ€™s Way Ready for Friday Stakes
After searching Fridayâ€™s Black-Eyed Susan Day undercard for a spot to run his filly Regina Christina, trainer Damon Dilodovico ultimately settled on the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3).
â€œThis one is a lot tougher than we hoped,â€ Dilodovico said. â€œItâ€™s a very salty race; all the races appear to be. We have Brendaâ€™s Way in the [Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3)] and itâ€™s the same way. Did you see it, with the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner from last year in there? I think the racing secretary and those guys in her office may have done their jobs too well.â€
In fact, Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale said her staff has done an excellent job.
â€œI think this is the strongest Black-Eyed Susan Day card Iâ€™ve ever had, with the stakes and the undercard,â€ said Hale, who has been in charge since 2000. â€œIf we donâ€™t have rain, the handle should be huge. The whole racing office worked hard, talking to trainers and getting horses to us for Friday. Weâ€™re very proud of how it has turned out, and I think the card will be just as good Saturday.â€
Dilodovico said that despite the challenges presented, he is eager to see how his fillies run.
â€œWeâ€™re very excited to get Regina Christina in a race,â€ Dilodovico said. â€œShe breezed very well, but sheâ€™s kind of full of herself. By race day I want a controlled â€˜full of herself.â€™ Our best shot will be for her to be near the front of the pact. Obviously, the horses weâ€™re running against are great horses. Setting up a race to go the way you want wonâ€™t be easy for anyone.â€
Dilodovico claimed the daughter of Stonesider in January for Adam Stapleâ€™s Big Bertha Stables. She hasnâ€™t finished worse than third in five career starts on dirt, but she comes into the Miss Preakness off a ninth-place finish in the Stormy Blues Stakes on turf last month at Pimlico.
â€œThe last start, there was some thinking she might have some turf pedigree, but we knew it wasnâ€™t going to be her day,â€ Dilodovico said. â€œBut sheâ€™s 100 percent and ready to go on the dirt now.â€
The trainer feels equally good about his DuPont entry Brendaâ€™s Way, who has won 50 percent of her races and also has two seconds.
â€œShe looks great,â€ he said. â€œHer coat looks super and [jockey Jevian] Toledo came over and worked her [Sunday] for us. It was a nice controlled workout and she really looks good. But, again, the field is full of really good horses.â€