97th Edition of Prestigious 1 1/8-Mile Race for 3-Year-Old Fillies
BALTIMORE, Md. – Three Diamonds Farm’s Army Wife was able to extricate herself from tight quarters leaving the backstretch, tipped outside to challenge long shot pacesetter Lady Traveler midway around the turn and opened up on the field once straightened for home to earn her first career stakes win in Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico Race Course.
The 97th running of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies was the centerpiece of a sensational 14-race program featuring six stakes, four graded, worth $1 million in purses that served as a fitting prelude to Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Army Wife ($11), ridden by Joel Rosario, gave trainer Mike Maker his first Black-Eyed Susan win and second consecutive stakes victory on the day following Last Judgment’s front-running score in the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3). Rosario previously won the Black-Eyed Susan with Fiftyshadesofhay in 2013.
The Black-Eyed Susan was just the second career stakes attempt for Army Wife, a 3-year-old daughter of Declaration of War who also found trouble when finishing third behind Search Results in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle (G3) April 3 at Aqueduct in her prior start. Search Results would go on to run second in the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Lady Traveler, from the barn of two-time Black-Eyed Susan winner Dale Romans, was eager for the lead breaking from Post No. 5 under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano and took the field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.71 seconds and a half in 46.71. Adventuring, a winner of two straight including the Bourbonette Oaks on Turfway Park’s all-weather surface March 27, gave chase in second tracked by Santa Ysabel (G3) winner Beautiful Gift, the 2-1 betting favorite, in the clear three wide.
Forward Gal (G3) runner-up Lady Traveler remained in front after going six furlongs in 1:10.92, when Army Wife – unhurried racing in sixth early on – began to quickly make up ground along the rail. Rosario had to check slightly when trying to find room between the front-runner and Willful Woman, but Army Wife found her stride again and was swung outside by Rosario for a shot at the leader.
The two horses hit the top of the stretch together but it was Army Wife who was able to march ahead and win by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:49.63. Willful Woman recovered after dropping back on the turn and passed the tiring Lady Traveler to take second by 1 ¼ lengths. It was 10 lengths back to Forever Boss in fourth.
Miss Leslie, a stakes winner in her only two previous attempts around two turns, was fifth, followed by The Grass Is Blue, Beautiful Gift, Adventuring, Iced Latte and Spritz.
A bay filly out of the Arch mare Tread, Army Wife made her first three starts on the grass last summer and fall at Saratoga and Belmont Park before breaking her maiden at Churchill Downs in October in her dirt debut. She capped her juvenile season running second in a one-mile optional claiming allowance in November, and opened 2021 with a nose victory in a similar spot March 13 at Gulfstream Park, earning her a shot in the Gazelle.
First run in 1919 as the Pimlico Oaks, the Black-Eyed Susan was renamed in 1952 to honor the Preakness and Maryland’s state flower. Among its winners are Nellie Morse, who later became the only filly to then win the Preakness; Hall of Famers Gallorette, Twilight Tear, Davona Dale, Real Delight, Royal Delta, Serena’s Song and Silverbulletday; and divisional champions Vagrancy, But Why Not and Wistful.
Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) program will include a 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot carryover of $116,207.58. Saturday’s all-stakes Rainbow 6 sequence will span Races 8-13, capped by the Preakness Stakes. Multiple tickets with all five winners Friday each returned $2871.60. There will also be a Super Hi-5 carryover of $8300.49 heading into the program.
$250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Quotes
Winning Trainer Mike Maker (Army Wife): “I liked her chances. The rail seemed like the spot to be today, and we finally got a good trip out of her.”
“I thought last time it was a last-minute decision [to run in the April 3 Gazelle at Aqueduct]. Not everything was ideal. She got in trouble, shuffled back and she came on again [to finish third], which I thought was very game. We opted not to enter her in the [Kentucky] Oaks and point for this.”
“This was a break-out race, third start off the layoff. I thought her last race was huge, too.”
“She did so well on the dirt (after three turf defeats) that we just kept her there.”
Winning Jockey Joel Rosario (Army Wife): “They looked like they had a good pace in the beginning. I thought was going to be forwardly placed, but the way they were moving, I was a little farther back.”
“It was a decision that I had to make because they were coming back a little bit in front of me and I had horse. I decided I needed to go because I had some room to go and just let her run her race like she always does.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen (Willful Woman; 2nd): “She ran a good race. I wish she hadn’t gotten into a little trouble around the turn…it is what it is.”
Trainer Dale Romans (Lady Traveler; 3rd): “I thought she ran a huge race in a big race. This is a prestigious race. She tried hard all the way. I thought, turning for home, she was going to keep right on going. She ran big. I am very proud of her. That was the plan – to see if she could go to the lead and keep on going. She tried to. She went fast. And she finished. It’s all you can ask for.”
Jockey Javier Castellano (Lady Traveler; 3rd): “I am really happy the way she did it today. Dale Romans told me before the race that she was really training good. He said if she broke out of the gate, get your position and take it from there. She broke so well out of the gate and I liked the way she did it. She was in a nice, comfortable rhythm. Even turning for home, I thought I was going to win the race. She was never tired. I am proud of the way she did it. She hung in there all the way. I am not disappointed at all with her race.”
Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert (Beautiful Gift, beaten favorite, 7th): “Obviously we are disappointed. We thought she would run a little better than that. Johnny [Velazquez] said that when he needed horse he just didn’t have it. We’ll wrap things up and probably head back to California with her.”
Jockey John Velazquez (Beautiful Gift; 7th): “I had a good position. She just didn’t have it today.”
Pimlico Press Release
Photo: Army Wife (Maryland Jockey Club)