It’s Preakness Stakes week at Pimlico, and the festivities kick off with Friday’s power-packed, 14-race program. The card features seven consecutive stakes races, including an all-stakes Pick Four that starts in the 10th, wrapping up with The Black-Eyed Susan.
I’ll attack that sequence with an $18 ticket, one that features a big stand in the last leg. Here’s how I’ll play it.
A safe start in the Miss Preakness
The Grade 3 Miss Preakness is the opening leg. While it’s attracted an eight-horse field, the morning line maker thinks it’s a two-horse race, and I’m inclined to agree.
I’m using both No. 2 Under the Stars and No. 6 Happy Soul. The former cuts back to one turn after a pair of losses going longer in California, while the latter cuts back after stopping badly in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland. Both fillies clearly seem to prefer sprinting, and they’ll get the chance to do so here.
I usually don’t love using both likely favorites in a spot like this. However, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve got a strong opinion elsewhere on the ticket. My strategy is to get there and hope I’m right.
Using a half-dozen in The Very One
No, that subhead isn’t a misprint. This race is named after famed mare The Very One, and it’s technically The Very One Stakes.
It’s important to consider how wide-open this race is. It’s drawn a 12-horse field, and I’ll have half of them on my ticket.
No. 10 Payntdembluesaway is my top pick. She sure seems like a distance specialist. Her races at five furlongs are markedly better than her 5 1/2-furlong efforts, and she gets the shorter trip here. A repeat of her winning efforts in Florida this past winter would give her a big shot, but the draw is a concern.
I’ll also use No. 2 Honey Pants, No. 6 Can the Queen, No. 8 Whispurring Kitten, No. 11 Spun Glass, and No. 12 Adelaide Miss. Like many other turf sprints this weekend at Pimlico, this is a tough event to handicap. I’d advise you to go as deep as you can.
Three deep in the Pimlico Special
The Grade 3 Pimlico Special has a lot of history to it. It’s run at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles, and past winners include champions Invasor, Mineshaft, and Cigar, among others.
Much has been expected of No. 8 First Captain since he hammered for $1.5 million at auction in 2019. This is his second career start around two turns, but I think he’s sitting on a big race. His effort in the Grade 1 Carter was too bad to be true, and he’s worked very, very well since that clunker. He’s shown plenty of potential, and I think he’ll live up to it at a bit of a price.
Todd Pletcher sends a pair of 4-year-olds here, and I’ll use them both, too. No. 1 Vindictive won his 2022 debut at Aqueduct, while No. 3 Untreated just missed last time in the Excelsior Stakes and attracts Joel Rosario.
A Black-Eyed Susan single
My best bet of the sequence comes in Friday’s feature race. The Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan is the Preakness Stakes’ sister race for 3-year-old fillies. Anything close to the morning line price on my top pick hits me as a significant overlay.
No. 9 Interstatedaydream has done very little wrong. After winning her debut, she rallied to be second in the Grade 2 Adirondack despite a very poor start. She went to the sidelines but came back with an eight-length romp at Oaklawn Park and was sent off at less than 2-1 in the Grade 1 Ashland.
Nest freaked that day and went on to run second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks behind Preakness contender Secret Oath. Interstatedaydream was third in the Ashland but finds a softer group here in her third start off the bench. She’s worked well at Churchill Downs for Brad Cox, and not only do I think 6-1 is juicy, I think she’s the one to beat.
I respect No. 6 Luna Belle and No. 10 Adare Manor. The former has been crushing everything in sight on the Maryland circuit, and the latter won a Grade 3 by 13 lengths in February. Still, I think Interstatedaydream is a very serious horse. She’s a single for me to finish off this sequence.
The $18 late Pick Four ticket
R10: 2, 6
R11: 2, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12
R12: 1, 3, 8