Army Wife, trained by Michael J. Maker and ridden by Joel Rosario, made a late charge to win the 97th running of the Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico Race Course on Friday.
It’s the first graded-stakes win in eight races for the filly, who had struggled in her first two races on turf last year and placed third in the Grade III Gazelle Stakes on April 3 at Aqueduct.
“She’s a really nice horse,” said Rosario, who was in his first race with Army Wife. “And then, it seemed like she was getting really good over the track.”
Army Wife, running from Post No. 1, worked along the inner rail for the majority of the race before finding an opening down the backstretch and overtaking Lady Traveler for the lead over the final furlong, winning by 2 ¾ lengths.
“I liked her chances,” said Maker. “The rail seemed like the spot to be today, and we finally got a good trip out of her.”
Said Rosario: “I decided I needed to go because I had some room to go and just let her run her race like she always does.”
The win gave Maker his first Black-Eyed Susan win and second consecutive stakes victory on the day following Last Judgement’s front-running score in the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3). Rosario previously won the Black-Eyed Susan with Fiftyshadesofhay in 2013.
This year, the $250,000 Grade II 1 ⅛-mile event for 3-year-old fillies was moved back to Preakness Eve after it was run on the Preakness undercard in 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Willful Woman, a 13-1 shot running from Post No. 2, placed second, and Lady Traveler, at 18-1 from Post No. 5, finished third. Forever Boss, 18-1 from Post No. 4, placed fourth.
Army Wife, who finished the race in 1:49:63, paid $11, $5.80, and $4. Willful Woman paid $12.60 and $7.80, while Lady Traveler paid $8.40.
Beautiful Gift, trained by Bob Baffert and subject to multiple rounds of testing in the aftermath of stablemate Medina Spirit’s failed test after the colt’s Kentucky Derby win, came in seventh.
The total handle for Friday was $27,675,000, a record for Black-Eyed Susan Day. It broke the previous record of $21,349,000, set in 2019. Attendance at Pimlico was capped at 10,000.
George E. Mitchell Grant
1/ST and The Maryland Jockey Club, working in partnership with Park Heights Renaissance, a nonprofit that advocates for redevelopment in the neighborhood, launched the George E. Mitchell Park Heights Community Fellowship grant this year.
The grant, which honors Mitchell, a community advocate in Park Heights who died July 2020, was awarded to Plantation Park Heights Urban Park for its Project Access program, which promotes sustainability of its urban agriculture curriculum in Baltimore City elementary schools. The program also teaches students how to grow, harvest and package nutritional foods that will be available to families in the Park Heights community.
Last year, the Maryland Jockey Club announced the introduction of the “George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.