George Weaver saw jockey Javier Castellano win four of his first five races Friday at Pimlico Race Course and knew the pressure was on him and the filly he trained, Point of Honor, with Castellano up for the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
“Javier is one of the greatest riders in the country,” Weaver said. “It was clear as I was watching the day go on that he was in the zone. So I was just hoping that I was in the zone and my filly was in the zone, too, because the way he was going it was going to be hard to deny him.”
Point of Honor indeed wasn’t going to be denied. The race’s second choice among eight at 5-2, she started outside but rallied for victory in the 95th edition of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, the 1 1/8-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies, with Castellano securing his fifth win of the day. At 1:47.88, Point of Honor finished just off the stakes record of 1:47.83.
The Brad Cox-trained Ulele put pressure on Point of Honor until the end of the Black-Eyed Susan, the prelude to Saturday’s Preakness. Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which became co-owner for Point of Honor with Stetson Racing after her first race, foresaw an easy victory once Castellano found an open lane. But Ulele kept Wellman on edge, even as Point of Honor won by a half-length.
“Down the lane, I thought she was gonna put ’em away with more ease, but Brad Cox’s filly put up a heck of a fight,” Wellman said. “A lot of credit goes to her. She really made our filly run to the wire, so it was a hell of a horse race. We’re just fortunate to come out on top.”
It ended up as Point of Honor’s third win in four starts, though she was coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks in March, with Castellano as her jockey, and she missed the first jewel of the tradition filly Triple Crown, the Kentucky Oaks, by a handful of scratches.
Weaver, though, could leave Pimlico on Friday viewing that as somewhat of a positive.
“We needed two scratches, but despite all our efforts to get somebody to scratch, it didn’t happen,” Weaver said with a laugh. “Nobody scratched. It might have been a blessing in disguise. Serengeti Empress won impressively that day and she was loose on the lead.
“Different type of race today. She’s a nice filly, though, and she was training very well before the Oaks, and we were dying to run. So, maybe she would have won that race, too. But the Black-Eyed Susan is a very prestigious race, and you know it’s a great next step for this filly, and hopefully we’ve got some more big stuff in the summer for her.”
Weavers opined that Point of Honor’s next race will likely come in August’s Alabama Stakes in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Fittingly, Weaver recalled his first “big race” victory coming at that course with Castellano up in 2005.
The pair was victorious again Friday, with Castellano claiming his third Black-Eyed Susan, all since 2014. Although Point of Honor spent most of the race outside, he remained unconcerned.
"I lost a little ground, but got a freer trip,” Castellano said. “I didn't have to be bounced with the horses. It worked out perfect. Good perfect trip, outside in the clear, and she went by all the horses. That's what I was looking for today, and we had the best result."
Wellman felt the same.
“She’s a filly that likes to be in a high cruising speed, be in rhythm, and we were OK with her being drawn outside today,” he said. “She’s a big filly with a long stride. We just didn’t want to disrupt her rhythm.”
Latest Horse Racing
In that way, the filly matched her jockey.