June 18, 2024

Lemon Muffin wheels back in Black-Eyed Susan; Kingsbarns tops Pimlico Special

Lemon Muffin wins Honeybee Stakes wins at Oaklawn Park (Photo Coady Photography / Credit to Renee Torbit)
Lemon Muffin upsets the Honeybee at Oaklawn Park (Photo Coady Photography / Credit to Renee Torbit)

Preakness Weekend commences in earnest Friday with a total of six competitive stakes races at Pimlico, anchored by the $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3).

Black-Eyed Susan (G2) – Race 13 (5:44 p.m. ET)

The 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan has attracted an electic group of eight sophomore fillies.

Lemon Muffin,the only Kentucky Oaks (G1) alumna to wheel back on two weeks’ rest, was a non-threatening eighth in the slop at Churchill Downs. That followed a similar non-effort when seventh in the Fantasy (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

But Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas can never be counted out, as Lemon Muffin herself proved earlier when breaking her maiden as a 28-1 shot in the Feb. 24 Honeybee (G3). By Collected, sire of 2023 Black-Eyed Susan upsetter Taxed, Lemon Muffin gets a rider switch to Flavien Prat.

Gun Song, a fading fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in her two-turn debut, gets another chance to route. It remains to be seen if she’ll take after her sire, incoming Hall of Famer Gun Runner, or her dam, Grade 2-winning sprinter Nicole H. Gun Song had looked very promising around one turn. Forcing Leslie’s Rose to pull out all the stops to beat her in an allowance, the Mark Hennig filly backed it up with a romp over Gulfstream’s mile en route to her anticlimactic stakes performance.

The other Gun Runner filly, Recharge, was a gutsy winner of the Sunland Park Oaks for Steve Asmussen. The Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred tired to fifth versus tougher, though, next time in the Fantasy. The Shug McGaughey-trained Whocouldaskformo likewise went the wrong way on the Oaks trail. Starting out with an encouraging second in the Suncoast S., she couldn’t follow up when fifth in the Davona Dale (G2) and fourth in the Gazelle (G3). Yet the well-bred daughter of Uncle Mo, from the immediate family of champion Unique Bella, could have more to offer.

Corposo was thrown into the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) fresh off her maiden win, and the Peter Eurton pupil acquitted herself respectably in third. Aside from the benefit of that experience, the Vino Rosso filly won’t have to deal with Nothing Like You or Kinza here.

Call Another Play rolled over Jeanne Marie in the Weber City Miss S. at Laurel, securing her spot in the Black-Eyed Susan. While Call Another Play needed time, distance, and a spell in the claiming ranks to find herself, the well-named daughter of Audible has now dominated three straight for Michael Trombetta.

Ringy Dingy, a full sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Defunded, makes her seasonal reappearance. The Danny Gargan pupil romped in the Oct. 13 White Clay Creek S. at Delaware Park, but regressed to seventh in the Demoiselle (G2) when last seen.

Pimlico Special (G3) – Race 12 (5:10 p.m. ET)

Kingsbarns looms as the one to beat in the Pimlico Special, held over the same 1 3/16-mile distance as his signature wins. The front-running hero of last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2), Kingsbarns was embroiled in the Kentucky Derby (G1) pace meltdown in the only poor result of his life. The Todd Pletcher charge has returned better than ever this season, winning both starts including the Ben Ali (G3) at Keeneland.

Red Route One is another veteran of the 2023 Triple Crown trail to find success at four. Fourth in last year’s Preakness (G1) at this trip, the Asmussen trainee scored his biggest win in the March 30 New Orleans Classic (G2). The pace-dependent closer was most recently third in the Oaklawn H. (G2). Stablemate Harlocap didn’t get as far along on the trail last year, with his best effort being a near-miss in the Texas Derby.

Late-blooming Pyrenees steps up in class after winning three straight, including a second-level Keeneland allowance, for Cherie DeVaux. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Brazilian import Royal Ship. A multiple Grade 2 winner with Richard Mandella in years past, Royal Ship is trying to revive his career on a new circuit. He trailed in the Frank Whiteley S. in his first start for Graham Motion, but needed the race badly off the lengthy layoff.

Double Crown has never finished off the board in four local appearances, including a romp in last September’s Polynesian S., and he’s had the measure of Be Better. Rounding out the field is Time for Trouble, fourth behind Kingsbarns in the Ben Ali.

Allaire DuPont Distaff – Race 8 (3:05 p.m. ET)

Julia Shining has gone winless since the 2022 Demoiselle, but the full sister to two-time champion Malathaat remains in training in hopes of fulfilling her potential. The Pletcher filly missed by only a nose in last fall’s Comely (G3), and her comeback third in a Keeneland allowance could set her up for a strong effort, especially back up in trip to 1 1/8 miles.

Musical Mischief, runner-up in the same allowance, seeks her stakes breakthrough for Michael McCarthy. The Into Mischief filly, a half-sister to Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) hero Bright Future, was third in the American Oaks (G1) on turf last December.

Molly Pitcher (G3) heroine Shotgun Hottie hopes to regain her old form after a disappointing winter at Oaklawn, most recently checking in fourth in the Apple Blossom (G1). Maryland-bred Intrepid Dream made it five straight in the April 13 Heavenly Cause S. at Laurel, where Cats inthe Timber was third. Lacie Be Good brings a five-race winning streak into her stakes debut for Tom Amoss, while Queen of Missoula exits a fifth in the Doubledogdare (G3).

Hilltop S. – Race 9 (3:36 p.m. ET)

She Feels Pretty, the Natalma (G1) romper and close third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), returns to action over the grassy mile. The Cherie DeVaux runner will meet several intriguing class climbers, among them Expatriate for the ubiquitous Chad Brown, Waves of Mischief (Brendan Walsh), Just Better (Asmussen), and Royal Wintour (Motion).

Miss Preakness (G3) – Race 10 (4:07 p.m. ET)

Multiple stakes scorer Youalmosthadme is entitled to prosper on the cutback to six furlongs. The Brad Cox trainee comes off a tiring third as the even-money favorite in the Beaumont (G2), which shaped as a bridge too far in her reappearance.

Recent Any Limit S. winner Launch is 3-for-4 on dirt after beginning her career in Europe for Amo Racing. Lady Moscato brings the cutback angle for Lukas in the wake of her belated sixth in the Eight Belles (G2). Others fitting the profile are Butch Reid’s one-turn specialist Carmelina, who retreated to seventh in the Gazelle, and Wide Country S. victress Miss Harriett, third in the Weber City Miss.

Two-time Tampa stakes winner Mystic Lake figures to flash speed on the rail; Munnings filly Closing Act invades off a Lone Star Park stakes coup for Asmussen; Smart Halo S. winner Cap Classique was second to Carmelina in the Gin Talking S. when last seen Dec. 30; and Pletcher’s Ruthless S. third Value Area is out of Grade 1 vixen and noted broodmare Her Smile.

The Very One S. – Race 11 (4:38 p.m. ET)

Wesley Ward has put Kaufymaker in tough spots throughout her career, from Royal Ascot and the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) (where she was third) to last fall’s Woodford (G2) (resulting in a ninth). This five-furlong turf dash, in her own distaff division, is a more realistic placement.

Queen of the Mud might be a pedigree play as a Kodiac half-sister to current Dubai Turf (G1) conqueror Facteur Cheval. Port Townsend gets class relief after flopping in her stakes debut in the Giant’s Causeway (G3), while Future Is Now was most recently fifth versus males in King Leatherbury S. All That Magic was last seen placing third in the Nov. 17 Autumn Days S. at Aqueduct. Bosserati, unraced since last June, sports a 2-for-2 mark over course and distance.