2023 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes preview and best bets

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

May 17, 2023 10:24 PM

Filly race highlights Friday card at Pimlico Race Course

Prior to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the fillies will take center stage at Pimlico Race Course in the George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Unlike the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks earlier this month, this race is a Grade 2 event, but there is still a good field on hand and a lot of money up for grabs in one of the most prestigious three-year-old filly races of the season.

Originally the Pimlico Oaks at inception in 1919, the race changed names in 1952 to its current moniker and is a 1 ⅛-mile event (nine furlongs) that serves as the feature on Friday night. This is Race 13 in the program and post time is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. ET in the 99th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

Here are the horses, trainers, jockeys, and odds for the 2023 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes:







Sacred Wish

G. Weaver

J. Velazquez




M. Maker

J. Barbosa



Hoosier Philly

T. Amoss

E. Morales




B. Cox

F. Geroux



Frosty O’Toole

T. Pletcher

J. Rosario




T. Pletcher

I. Ortiz Jr.




B. Cox

L. Saez




R. Atras

M. Franco




B. Baffert

F. Prat




R. Morse

R. Bejarano



Cats Inthe Timber

B. Russell

J. Toledo




M. Maker

T. Gaffalione


Faisa, who skipped the Kentucky Oaks, is the overwhelming favorite in the Black-Eyed Susan. Only two other contenders, Merlazza and Balpool, are even in single digits, though that will change by post time as optimistic handicappers look for ways to fade Faisa. The Brad Cox fillies are likely to be popular in this race, as Cox is known as a pretty solid filly trainer and Interstatedaydream won last year with the combination of Cox and rider Florent Geroux, who assumes the mount on second favorite Merlazza in this one.

The Bob Baffert-trained Faisa could be his first winner in this race since he went to the winner’s circle with the hilariously-named Fiftyshadesofhay back in 2013.

Here are some quick handicaps on the 12 horses scheduled to be in the field.

1. Sacred Wish (10-1): Sacred Wish finished a game second to Affirmative Lady in the Gr. 2 Gulfstream Oaks back in April after a big speed figure in her maiden win in March. She was not raced as a two-year-old and has a win and a place in her last two races after struggling to a third-place finish with a sloppy track in her February debut at Oaklawn. The daughter of Not This Time and Indian Wish draws a tough post on the rail in a big field, but she could have a bounce back effort and her bloodline is actually favorable for the distance.

2. Pate (20-1): The first of two Michael Maker entries in the field is unlikely to be a factor. She was sixth in the Fantasy at an extended distance of 1 1/16 miles after starting the year with a win and a second in short sprints at Oaklawn Park. Sired by 2010 Kentucky Derby champ Super Saver, she could have a big run in her, but the speed figures don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

3. Hoosier Philly (10-1): The breeders of Into Mischief sure have been busy the last few years. Hoosier Philly has an impressive bloodline with Into Mischief and Tapit-sired mare, Tapella. This was actually thought of as a filly that could get into the Kentucky Derby field this year after three wins in 2022, including the Rags to Riches in October and the Gr. 2 Golden Rod Stakes less than a month later. Her third-place finish in this year’s Gr. 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes tempered expectations and then she missed the board in the Gr. 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. She’s not at Churchill Downs here either, but she may be sitting on a big run and is arguably the most interesting longshot.

4. Merlazza (6-1): The aforementioned Cox-Geroux combo has the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and Mi Vida in this race in the midst of a three-race winning streak. Merlazza won her maiden at Fair Grounds and followed that up with an allowance win a little over a month later. She had a pretty weak run in the Valley of the Vapors at Oaklawn Park, but was still good enough to take the victory at one mile against a field of eight. Joel Rosario was in the mount for that race, but Geroux’s familiarity with Cox is a noteworthy nugget here. She’ll need to resurrect the speed figures from her previous two races to have a chance, but her top-end performances are better than most in the field.

5. Frosty O’Toole (15-1): The only horse in the field whose name is reminiscent of an Irish pub has notable connections with Todd Pletcher and Joel Rosario. Pletcher won this race four times from 2005-14, with the last win coming with Stopchargingmaria, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She ran sixth in the Gazelle Stakes at Aqueduct, so it was not a strong run, but she had been trending upwards at Tampa Bay Downs and maybe the first-time travel outside of the Sunshine State didn’t sit well with her. That race was won by Promiseher America and Gambling Girl finished second. Both ran in the Kentucky Oaks, so it was a good field. Her sire, Frosted, finished second to American Pharoah in the 2015 Belmont Stakes.

6. Miracle (10-1): It wouldn’t take a miracle for this Pletcher-trained filly to win, but she’ll need a much better effort than what she had in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. She was fifth in her follow-up to a stellar second-place run in the Rachel Alexandra, which was won by Kentucky Oaks champ Pretty Mischievous. She actually went off as the favorite in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, so maybe this is a bit of a buy-low spot on her. That said, she’s only won one of her six races and it was a maiden at Saratoga.

7. Comparative (12-1): The other Cox filly in this race will have Luis Saez in the mount as Comparative, the daughter of Street Sense and Collective, looks for a third straight win. The Godolphin barn picked up a winner two weeks ago in the Kentucky Oaks with Pretty Mischievous and could repeat the feat here with a horse who has a ton of experience at distance. She’s run six races at 1 1/16 miles and has been building towards her stakes debut. The strength of this field is a huge step up in class, but she’s been raced a lot and has traveled more than other horses as well.

8. Balpool (8-1): Balpool has won three of her last four races, including two very impressive wins by distance in her last two at Aqueduct, including the Memories of Silver stakes race. She went off at 9-5 and closed on the 4-5 favorite for the win. In her previous race on dirt, she won by 9 ½ lengths. The off-the-turf win does raise a few questions, but she may just be turning the corner as a three-year-old after maturing a bit. Manny Franco had the mount in the Memories of Silver and will look to run it back with trainer Rob Atras here.

9. Faisa (7-5): The daughter of Girvin and Sweet Pistol has not been beaten in five races, including four stakes victories. She was victorious in the Gr. 1 Starlet last December before winning the Gr. 3 Las Virgenes and Santa Ysabel before her win in the Gr. 2 Santa Anita Oaks. She does have long travel from Santa Anita to the Baltimore area, but she’s won three times at 1 1/16 miles and profiles really well in this race also. There are some questions about her 89 Beyer in the Oaks and how she could be vulnerable here against a much stronger field. Runner-up Andtellmenolies finished 12th in the Kentucky Oaks. I don’t think it’s as crazy as it seems to fade the favorite here.

10. Taxed (15-1): Taxed is a difficult handicap. She’s finished second to Kentucky Oaks favorite Wet Paint in the Gr. 3 Fantasy and the Martha Washington. However, Wet Paint ran fourth on the first weekend of May and struggled against a stronger field. A similar fate could be in store for Taxed, whose speed figures have been up and down over the last four races. Her best performance came in that place finish at the Fantasy, so her pattern would suggest that she struggles here.

11. Cats Inthe Timber (30-1): Trainer Brittany Russell is hoping to become the first female trainer since Deborah Bodner in 1997 and the second overall to win the Black-Eyed Susan. In fact, Bodner is the only one to accomplish that feat. The daughter of Honor Code and Wychwood was victorious last time out at Laurel Park in the Weber City Miss, but that was a weak field and she didn’t have great speed numbers. A win would make for a great story for Russell, but Cats Inthe Timber doesn’t look like a factor at all.

12. Towhead (20-1): Neither does the daughter of Malibu Moon and Smartly Agree, who draws the far outside post at 20-1. Tyler Gaffalione is an excellent rider and has found success with longshots in stakes races before, but the heavily-raced three-year-old has finished seventh, fifth, and eighth in the last three stakes races.


The favorite may very well win this race, but I’m intrigued by a lot of the horses at bigger prices. Hoosier Philly has a tremendous bloodline and maybe the most pure upside in the field. I really like her, along with Merlazza for the Cox-Geroux combo. I like 3 to win, along with a 3/6 exacta box and would consider a trifecta box 3/6/7 to put Faisa in there, just in case she does indeed live up to the hype.

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