Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition

Unbeaten Faiza looms large

- By David Grening

BALTIMORE – Having dominated her division in Southern California, the unbeaten Faiza ships east for the first time to take on a large field of 3-year-old fillies in Friday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico.

The Black-Eyed Susan shares billing with the Grade 3, $250,000 Pimlico Special as two of six stakes on a 14-race, Preakness Eve card that begins at 11:30 a.m.

Faiza, a daughter of Girvin trained by Bob Baffert, is 5 for 5 with four graded stakes victories, the most recent one coming by 6 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Santa Anita Oaks.

Had she been eligible to run, Faiza would likely have been favored in the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago. But with Baffert still under suspension from Churchill Downs owing to the medication positive incurred by Medina Spirit in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Faiza was not able to run. Owner Michael Lund Petersen opted not to move Faiza to another trainer to try and earn qualifying points to run in the Oaks.

“We would have loved to have been there, but Michael Lund didn’t want her out of my care,” Baffert said. “He stuck it out, credit to him for that.”

Faiza is 3 for 3 at 1 1/16 miles, and the way she finished the Santa Anita Oaks at that distance gave every indication the 1 1/8 miles of the Black-Eyed Susan is well within her reach.

“She’s doing really well, but she’s been beating the same horses over and over and over,” Baffert said. “This is going to be a good test for her – big field. She needs a good trip. If she gets a good trip, distance shouldn’t be a problem for her. She’s running against better fillies; we’ll see where she fits.”

The Black-Eyed Susan drew a field of 12, but trainer Todd Pletcher said he plans to scratch both of his entrants, Frosty O Toole, who will point to the Grade 1 Acorn on June 9 at Belmont, and Miracle, who will likely run in the Bouwerie for New York-breds on May 29.

Thus, Faiza, who drew post 9, will now break from post 7 under Flavien Prat.

“Prat rides her with a lot of confidence,” Baffert said. “He always tells me there’s more there.”

Trainer Brad Cox finished third, fourth, and 13th with three runners in the Kentucky Oaks. Friday, he has two different runners for the Black-Eyed Susan, led by Merlazza. A daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, Merlazza has won three straight, including the Valley of the Vapors Stakes at Oaklawn, where she overcame significan­t traffic to win at 3-5.

“She got a good education,” Cox said. “We sprinted her twice, took the blinkers off, and she’s really done well.”

Florent Geroux rides Merlazza from post 4.

Cox also sends out Godolphin-owned Comparativ­e, who has won two consecutiv­e races. Comparativ­e is a full sister to Shared Sense, a two-time Grade 3 stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles.

“I think to get her best run she’s one that needs to be close; I don’t know if she’s going to get close here,” said Cox, who does have Luis Saez to ride.

Cox’s top 3-year-old filly during the winter was Wet Paint, who won three stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn and then finished fourth as the favorite in the Kentucky Oaks. Taxed twice finished second to Wet Paint and got stuck one deep on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Oaks. She ended up in the Black-Eyed Susan and will break from post 8 under Rafael Bejarano.

Trainer Randy Morse removed blinkers from Taxed in the Fantasy, and she delivered arguably her best performanc­e, finishing second.

“In her races she was always pulling, she was just rank,” Morse said. “It seemed to make a big difference in her works and obviously in her last race. She was running at the wire.”

Sacred Wish ran a good second to Affirmativ­e Lady in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, her first try around two turns. Friday, she breaks from the rail under John Velazquez for George Weaver.

Hoosier Philly, trained by Tom Amoss, is winless in two starts this year after going 3 for 3 at age 2.

Balpool won twice in three weeks, including an off-the-turf victory in the Memories of Silver Stakes on April 29 at Aqueduct. A daughter of Uncaptured, Balpool has yet to race beyond a one-turn mile.

Cats Inthe Timber won the Weber City Miss at Laurel for trainer Brittany Russell. While Cats Inthe Timber looks light on speed figures, Russell went 7 for 12 in the first week of this meet.

Trainer Mike Maker sends out two longshots in Pate and Towhead, the sixth- and seventh-place finishers in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn last out.

The Black-Eyed Susan is the first half of a two-day daily double wager that links to Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

 ?? BARBARA D. LIVINGSTON ?? Faiza ran her record to 5 for 5 with a 6 1/2-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks.
BARBARA D. LIVINGSTON Faiza ran her record to 5 for 5 with a 6 1/2-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks.

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