December 6, 2021

Pletcher, Casse double-handed in Black-Eyed Susan

Lights of Medina took the "Win & You're In" Weber City Miss but stablemate Moana may be better (Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue)

One day before their respective stable stars Always Dreaming and Classic Empire square off in the Preakness (G1), trainers Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse will be well represented by a pair of fillies each in Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2). Anchoring a six-stakes card, the 1 1/8-mile feature has attracted an evenly-matched field that bodes for a fascinating betting race.

Pletcher’s two are Moana, a recent Keeneland maiden winner, and Lights of Medina, who booked her spot by taking the “Win and You’re In” Weber City Miss at Laurel April 22. Although Lights of Medina is already a stakes winner, and the only entrant with a triple-digit BRIS Speed rating (101) for her Laurel victory in the slop, it’s significant that Hall of Famer John Velazquez rides Moana.

“The main attraction here is the mile and an eighth distance; we feel like that’s what she’s looking for,” Pletcher said. “It’s kind of an ambitious move from a maiden race but we’ve always thought a lot of her.”

Watch video of Moana working four furlongs in :48.80 Sunday with exercise rider Nick Bush:

A $300,000 OBS April two-year-old purchase, Moana races for the partnership of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Bridlewood. The Uncle Mo filly will break from post 7, while Sumaya US Stable’s Lights of Medina is drawn in post 3 with a returning Fergal Lynch.

Topping Casse’s pair is Summer Luck, the Kentucky Oaks (G1) also-eligible who never got the opportunity to compete that first Friday in May. The fairly consistent daughter of Lookin at Lucky was third in both the Old Hat and Davona Dale (G2), fourth in the Forward Gal (G2), and most recently a mildly closing fifth in the Ashland (G1), which marked her two-turn debut.

“She’s doing really well,” said Norman Casse, the trainer’s son and assistant. “We wanted to run her in the Kentucky Oaks. She came back and worked really well. The pace in the Ashland was probably too slow for her liking. We really think she’s a legit horse, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to run her in the Black-Eyed Susan.”

Javier Castellano, who’d ridden her earlier this season at Gulfstream, regains the mount.

Summer Luck is owned by Gary Barber, also the co-owner (with celebrity chef Bobby Flay) of stablemate Corporate Queen. Purchased privately following her debut score at Laurel in January, Corporate Queen was a closing second to Pletcher’s well-regarded Nonna Bella (who runs earlier on Friday in the Miss Preakness [G3]) in her first start for Casse at Gulfstream. The Colonel John filly didn’t put her best foot forward when a retreating fifth in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), but could regroup with Joel Rosario. Corporate Queen may have been better served by the draw (post 6) compared to Summer Luck in post 9.

Jimmy Jerkens dispatches a likeable challenger in Full House, a 13-length Aqueduct maiden winner who was subsequently second in the Busher and a hampered third in the Gazelle (G2).

“The track was very speed-favoring,” Jerkens said of the Gazelle. “She got bothered pretty bad on the first turn. Paco (Lopez on Miss Sky Warrior) crossed over and was the favorite to get the lead. She won so easy that they’re not going to take a horse down that won by a pole, but she did saw us off pretty good. She got shuffled back and was unsettled, because when you’ve got a full head of steam and then get shut off it kinds of get them all discombobulated. It was a better effort that it looked on paper.”

Although Gazelle romper Miss Sky Warrior flopped after the speed circus in the Kentucky Oaks, Gazelle runner-up Lockdown rescued the form by finishing third to Abel Tasman in the Churchill slop. Rajiv Maragh maintains his partnership with Full House from post 4.

Also hoping to draw a line through the Gazelle is Yorkiepoo Princess, the winner of three consecutive Aqueduct stakes before a too-bad-to-be-true eighth last time. The Furlough, Ruthless, and Busher victress now adds first-time Lasix and picks up Horacio Karamanos, but might have to use too much early speed from post 11.

Streaking Marylander Shimmering Aspen was under consideration for the six-furlong Miss Preakness, so it could be a bullish sign that trainer Rodney Jenkins opts to stretch her out in this spot. By Malibu Moon and out of Grade 2-placed multiple stakes scorer Aspenglow, Shimmering Aspen ranks first in BRIS Prime Power thanks to a trio of romps sprinting at Laurel. The $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling promises to show early foot from the rail for regular rider Steve Hamilton.

If Dancing Rags can rediscover her Alcibiades (G1)-winning form from last fall, the Graham Motion filly would be a top contender. Subsequently eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and sixth in the April 9 Beaumont (G3) after a troubled start, the $210,000 daughter of Union Rags hinted she might be headed in the right direction with a bullet move at Fair Hill this past Friday. Dancing Rags must concede weight all around, however, as the 122-pound highweight.

Other well-bred types aiming to improve from recent losses are Tapa Tapa Tapa, the Suncoast upsetter who was last seen finishing fourth in the Honeybee (G3); Torrent, third in the Martha Washington and a wide fourth in the Fantasy (G3); and the maiden Actress, second in both of her outings at Gulfstream, including the restricted Game Face S.

Tapa Tapa Tapa and Actress are both by Tapit from notable mares. Actress is out of Canadian champion Milwaukee Appeal, while Tapa Tapa Tapa’s dam is a Dixieland Band half-sister to graded turf winners Cosmonaut and Fire with Fire.

Torrent is a daughter of Blame and Tidal Pool, who placed in the 2010 Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan.

Off her “deceptively good fourth” in the Fantasy, trainer Ron Moquett is looking for a big effort from Torrent.

“I think she’s going to have a coming out party this race,” Moquett said.