Smart N Pretty got under the wire first, but Regal Engagement was awarded victory in the $250,000 Woodford Reserve Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) Friday afternoon at Pimlico.
Running on the inside, Smart N Pretty, with Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard, drifted out during her stretch duel, brushing Regal Engagement and causing the the latter to be steadied by her rider, Ramon Dominguez. The stewards took down Smart N Pretty after she posted a 3 1/2-length victory at odds of 9-1 and placed her second while awarding the victory to the 5-1 shot Regal Engagement.
"We had good position on the far turn and (I) had a lot of horse coming into the stretch," Dominguez said. "Down the lane, (Smart N Pretty) came into me. So I had to move her out so we didn't clip heels."
Arroyo disagreed, saying, "I was always aware of the horse to my outside and never thought I took the path away from the other horse. When we brushed, my horse switched leads and I thought she straightened out then. I don't think my filly should have been taken down. His horse bumped mine."
Baghdaria finished third, only nose in front of Gasia. Favored She's an Eleven, who raced wide much of the way, was fifth.
Gaining her third victory in seven career outings while lugging in after the stretch incident, Regal Engagement came into the Black-Eyed Susan off of a runner-up finish in the Comely Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct on April 15. She had won the Busher Stakes, also at Aqueduct, in February. Thomas Bush saddled the 3-year-old daughter of Cat Thief
for owner Mark D. Spitzer, who picked up the winning share of $150,000. Regal Engagement's first graded stakes win pushed her earnings to $257,980.
"We'll take it," Bush said. "I do feel good about it, but I feel bad for the connections of the other filly. She (Regal Engagement) ran terrific. We were asking a lot out of her in this spot, and she came through for us."
Classic Star Stable's Smart N Pretty led throughout in the Black-Eyed Susan, covering the first quarter mile in :24.55 and cruising through the half in :48.96. Regal Engagement charged up to challenge on the final turn and the battle was on. Smart N Pretty spurted away after drifting out under Arroyo's left-handed whipping near the sixteenth pole. The time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.11
"I thought it could have gone either way," said Dale Romans, the trainer of Smart N Pretty. "I think she (Smart N Pretty) deserved to win. I think she was by her (Regal Engagement) when she came out, but that's horse racing. I thought (Regal Engagement) was coming in too."
Helen Alexander and Stewart Armstrong bred Regal Engagement in Kentucky.
The third choice in the field of seven, Regal Engagement paid $12.40, $6.60 and $4.80. Smart N Pretty, who was coming off a third-place finish in the 7 1/2-furlong La Troienne at Churchill Downs less than two weeks ago, returned $11 and $5.60. Baghdaria, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was $6 to show in her first start for trainer Tom Amoss.
After Gasia, the full order of finish was She's An Eleven, Saratoga Drive and Crystal Current.
Garrett Gomez, who rode the 11-10 favorite She's An Eleven, said there was no excuse. "On the first turn, I moved to the outside, but she just never picked it up. She never seemed to be happy. I don't think she liked the track."