Head to Head: Handicapping the Black-Eyed Susan

Head to Head: Handicapping the Black-Eyed Susan
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The 2021 Black-Eyed Susan (G2), the filly counterpart to the Preakness Stakes (G1), attracted a field of 10 3-year-old fillies that will go 1 1/8 miles at Pimlico on Friday.

Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and I review the field and weed out the contenders from the pretenders.




Trainer Michael Maker started this filly on the lawn with no success. Her first dirt start resulted in her first career win, and she has not been off the board since. In her most recent start, Army Wife finished third in the Gazelle (G3). She saved all the ground throughout the early stages of the race but had to check between foes around the 3/16 pole. She lost all momentum but re-rallied to take nab 3rd after losing position in the stretch. One of the fillies she ran down was none other than fellow entrant The Grass Is Blue. Her speed figures are mediocre, but a better trip likely moves her up.

Army Wife has a beautiful turf router pedigree, yet she’s competent on dirt. In the Gazelle Stakes, she had a good trip behind the speed until she hit the turn. She raced between horses, and Trevor McCarthy had to tap on the brakes at the 3/16 pole when horses came over and closed the hole Army Wife was about to enter. Once in the clear, Army Wife made up some ground to get third place over The Grass is Blue. Army Wife has tactical speed and gets a jock switch to Rosario. Definitely one to keep an eye on. The filly, not Rosario.



A half-sister to Grade 3 winner Ever So Clever, Willful Woman enters off a smart win in allowance company. In her only prior start in graded stakes company, Willful Woman was off a bit slow and finished a well-beaten 7th in the Honeybee (G3). Should the track come up sloppy, which is unlikely according to the weather forecast in Baltimore, Willful Woman would make a great play as both of her career wins have come in the slop. 

Willful Woman is looking for a breakthrough victory over a dry track. Her late-pace figures are good, and she acts like the extra distance will be to her liking. Asmussen gave her a second-to-last bullet work at Churchill. Could be an attractive long shot.  



The longest shot in the field, Spritz, a half-sister to champion Judy the Beauty, is the Black-Eyed Susan “Why?” entrant. In six career starts, the filly has just one victory, and that came on the all-weather surface of Turfway Park. She did run second in the Bourbonette Oaks behind winner Adventuring, but that’s the best thing I can say.

Spritz faced winners for the first time in the Bourbonette Oaks. She sprinted clear by two lengths in the early stages but couldn’t hold off the charge of Adventuring. It was a good effort and should set Spitz up for the Black-Eyed Susan. Spritz is a 3/4-sister to 2014 Champion Female Sprinter Judy the Beauty. Spritz may vie for the lead in the Black-Eyed Susan with Iced Latte.


By Tapiture, Forever Boss has raced five times and just got her picture taken last out. The race itself was 1 1/8 miles and came off the turf at Keeneland. Unlike in her previous four races, Forever Boss was up on the pace. She took over in the stretch and won by open lengths. This is a step up in class for the filly, but having Jose Ortiz aboard for the first time can only move her up.

Forever Boss was technically still a maiden when she won her last start, an allowance race at Keeneland. The daughter of Tapiture will race on fast dirt for the first time in her five-race career. Her speed figures aren’t that lofty, but the Ken McPeek trainee is the only one in the Black-Eyed Susan with a victory at nine furlongs. If Jose Ortiz can keep her in a pace-pressing position, Forever Boss could have a say in the outcome of the race.


I find this to be an interesting spot for this daughter of Quality Road, who is a half-sister to grade one winner Heart to Heart. Two of her best races were sprints; she earned an 83 speed figure for her runner-up effort in the Forward Gal (G3), and an 89 for her fourth-place finish in the Beaumont (G3). She also earned an 86 for her second in the Rags to Riches Stakes, which is run at 1 1/16 miles. Though she posted a bullet five-panel work on May 7 and gets Javier Castellano up for the first time, I do not think this is a good spot for her.

Drawing a line through the turf experiment, Lady Traveler has made up ground in both of her starts this year, two sprints. The turf experiment was likely due to her being a half-sister to 2014 Canadian Turf Male Champ Heart to Heart. The Dale Romans trainee was seven lengths out of it in the Beaumont and put in a wide run just before the turn. After that spurt of speed, Lady traveler started to run out of oats. She managed to pass a few horses for fourth place. Note that her sole victory was when she set the pace, and I think she has more tactical speed than she’s been allowed to show. Note the rider change from Lanerie to Castellano. Javier has won three of the last seven editions of the Black-Eyed Susan and teamed with Romans to capture the 2015 edition with Keen Pauline.  


Recent maiden winner Iced Latte will represent Todd Pletcher at Pimlico. Luis Saez was in the irons for the filly’s lone win and hops back aboard the Repole owned filly. Irad Ortiz was aboard for her two losses, indicating that Saez knows how this filly ticks. Distance should be no problem as Pioneerof the Nile is a known classic producer, and dam Malibu Prayer was a grade one winner at the 9-furlong distance.

The lightly raced Iced Latte is the first foal out of Ruffian Stakes (G1) heroine Malibu Prayer to make it to the track. The Todd Pletcher trainee fought every step of the way in her last race, hounded on the outside. She put away her rival in the stretch, but Irad Ortiz didn’t see the winner making a late bid on the far outside. Take nothing away from Iced Latte; she ran a game race and was caught at the wire. 


Miss Leslie is the hometown filly, having raced nearly exclusively at Laurel. The exception came in her most recent start when she stormed from last to first to take Pimlico’s Weber City Miss Stakes. With the exception of the Wide Country Stakes, in which she finished 6th, Miss Leslie has never been off the board. This is quite a class hike, so she could prove to be a big fish in a little pond. 

Miss Leslie is the local hope. In her last race, she was squeezed back and had to steady at the start but quickly made up lengths to stay in touch with the field. She was carried seven wide around the turn and mowed them all down in the stretch, earning a 106 late-pace speed figure. She bested The Grass is Blue in the Anne Arundel Stakes in December.


Busanda winner The Grass Is Blue comes into the Black-Eyed Susan off a fourth-place finish in the Gazelle (G3). She ran a good race that day but was passed by Army Wife in the stretch despite that foe losing all momentum after having to check in between runners. Chad Brown takes the blinkers off, an angle in which he gets 40 percent winners. With Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons, The Grass Is Blue could prove dangerous.

The Grass is Blue had no excuse in the Gazelle Stakes. She was one of the fillies that closed the hole on Army Wife, causing that one to steady in the stretch. Despite this, Army Wife mowed down The Grass Is Blue late for third place. The Grass is Blue tangled with eventual Kentucky Oaks runner-up Search Results in her last two starts. The Grass is Blue meets a softer group here, and in an effort to shake things up, Chad Brown switches jocks from Manny Franco to Irad Ortiz Jr. and takes the blinkers off The Grass is Blue.  


Adventuring is quite interesting here. Trainer Chad Brown tried three straight times to run this daughter of Questing (GB) on the turf, only for the races to be moved to the main track. She finally found the winner’s circle in her third race and followed that up with a victory over Spritz in the Bourbonette Oaks, making her undefeated in 2021. The Brad Cox-trained miss has the highest last race speed figure. This is a step up in class, but it looks like this filly belongs.

Adventuring, a daughter of 2012 champion 3-year-old-filly Questing, is starting to mature. She has tactical speed and has outclassed rivals by a combined 8 1/2 lengths in her last two starts. What’s left to say?



Hailing from the controversial barn of Bob Baffert, Beautiful Gift is the class of the field off a victory in the Santa Ysabel (G3) and a second in the Santa Anita Oaks (G2). It is still unclear as to why Baffert skipped the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with this filly, but it certainly landed her in a much softer spot. The Medaglia d’Oro filly has the highest speed figure in the field and drew a beautiful spot. John Velazquez should have no issue getting the filly into a nice, outside stalking position. 

Beautiful Gift put away her rival Moraz in the four-horse Santa Anita Oaks but couldn’t get by Soothsay, who held her at bay by a half-length. She’s the class of the Black-Eyed Susan and has a 102 late-pace speed figure.



Final Thoughts

Laurie: Here’s something to think about. The last time the favorite won the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes was in 2011 when Royal Delta earned the honor. In the last decade, only two favorites have hit the board.

The Grass is Blue has tactical speed. She’s had excuses in two of her last three starts, so I’m willing to give her another shot. Adventuring is one of the best-bred fillies in the field, and I like how she’s naturally progressed in class this year. Beautiful Gift has shown speed figure progression in her E1, E2, and LP figures in each start. She may be the favorite, and there won’t be much value. 

Ashley: This seems to be a well-matched field. While Beautiful Gift is the class of the field, she still does not tower over her competition. Iced Latte and Spritz are the logical pacesetters here, but I imagine the front end will be compact as many of the others like to be in close striking position. I like Army Wife as a price play as she has proven to be a fighter. Iced Latte, The Grass Is Blue, Adventuring and Beautiful Gift all are in with a good chance of winning. The question is, who wants it more?






#1 Army Wife (8-1)

#9 Adventuring (4-1)

#8 The Grass Is Blue (6-1)

#10 Beautiful Gift (9-5)

#9 Adventuring (4-1)

#6 Iced Latte (8-1)

#10 Beautiful Gift (9-5)

#8 The Grass Is Blue (6-1)


Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
Facebook: IMTBreds
LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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