Every year, the $250,000 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course presents a tricky challenge for handicappers. The 1 1/8-mile race is held just two weeks after the prestigious Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, meaning that the Black-Eyed Susan field tends to be comprised of up-and-comers and fillies who missed the Oaks — not the easiest collection of horses to analyze.
Throw in the fact that weather forecasts are calling for rain at Pimlico this week, and the task gets even harder. Who will handle the expected wet track?
With all of this in mind, I’m going to keep my strategy fairly simple and focus on Sara Street (#9). Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Sara Street is a well-bred daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of the Malibu Moon mare Sara Louise, who won the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes on a sloppy track in 2009.
Only time will tell if Sara Street can achieve the same level of success as her sire and dam, but she’s certainly off to a good start. She’s already finished second twice in stakes races, and I was particularly impressed by her runner-up effort in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct last month, in which she dueled for the lead on a track that wasn’t kind to front-runners but nevertheless fell just a half-length short of victory.
The fact that Sara Street has already run well going 1 1/8 miles is a positive, and her tactical speed should enable her to work out an ideal trip in the Black-Eyed Susan.
Sara Street’s main competition could come from the unbeaten Maryland-bred filly Goodonehoney (#7), who has won her two starts to date by a combined margin of 11 ¾ lengths, including a front-running seven-length romp in the Weber City Miss Stakes at Laurel Park last month.
That performance came on the heels of an easy maiden-claiming victory in which Goodonehoney broke slowly, but easily rallied past her rivals to win with complete authority. She’ll be stepping up in class again on Friday and could face a challenge for the early lead, but the versatility that she showed in her debut win bodes well for her chances of handling any pace scenario.
Also worth considering is Coach Rocks (#3), winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for trainer Dale Romans. The daughter of Oxbow could only manage a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, but she’ll be facing easier competition in the Black-Eyed Susan, and her form is very similar to that of Go Maggie Go, another Romans-trained filly that sandwiched wins in the 2016 Gulfstream Park Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes around a defeat in the Kentucky Oaks.
Since Sara Street could offer solid odds in the wagering, let’s bet her to win and play her in the exacta with Goodonehoney and Coach Rocks:
$10 to win on #9 Sara Street ($10)
$5 exacta: 9 with 3,7 ($10)
$5 exacta: 3,7 with 9 ($10)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!