Jockey Joel Rosario's remarkable run continued May 17 when he cleverly brought Fiftyshadesofhay from off the pace to win the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (gr. II) at Pimlico Race Course (VIDEO).
Rosario, who will ride Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Orb in the Preakness Stakes May 18, took his mount in hand to rate sixth early on, atypical of her usual running style. After closing well and altering course to the outside in upper stretch, the Bob Baffert-trained filly reached the wire in front under strong right-handed urging to win by a neck over 12-1 shot Marathon Lady.
Final time for the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-old fillies was 1:52.73 over a fast track. The winner is owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman.
The deviation from Fiftyshadesofhay's typical tactics surprised even Baffert. The Pulpit filly's two previous wins, a maiden effort and the Jan. 26 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III), were earned racing on or near the lead. Baffert added blinkers for the Black-Eyed Susan for the first time since Fiftyshadesofhay was a maiden in her third start.
"I said 'Ride her the way you feel,' and then when he had her back, I thought 'Oh boy, this is something new!'" Baffert remarked. "Is he a riding sunofagun or what? I thought she'd run well, but I was surprised when he took her back like that."
Emollient, the 4-5 favorite in the field of seven, was unable to overcome a stumble at the break and ran sixth in the field of seven.
Fiftyshadesofhay bided her time behind the pace set by Maracuya, who went a quarter in :23.91 and a half in :48.71 while leading Toasting by a length. The frontrunner held for three-quarters in 1:13.26 while Fiftyshadesofhay was still fifth, with six lengths to make up. Maracuya then succumbed to Marathon Lady, who moved up to challenge leaving the far turn and led by 3 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch.
"She was kind of climbing a little bit from the dirt, but once I got her to the outside she was really comfortable," Rosario said of the early going aboard the winner. "Right when I passed the three-eighths pole, turning for home, she let herself get away from me a little bit and I kind of worried about it, but she was able to get it back together."
The mile went in 1:38.88, with Fiftyshadesofhay swerving around the heels of Toasting in midstretch. She did not lose momentum and forged ahead of the weakening Marathon Lady in the final strides.
"I didn't want to get her stuck inside; Bob told me she's kind of one-paced, just keeps going, so I thought it was a little bit better to maybe be on the outside, hopefully not too wide. She was able to put it all together," Rosario said.
"When I turned for home, I never thought I was going to get there, but right when I passed the last sixteenth pole I could see the horse in front of me, my horse was coming and the leader was backing up a little bit, so I said, 'I'm in good shape.'"
Jockey Robby Albarado thought he had the race won with Marathon Lady until the last jump.
"I had a lot of horse under me the entire race," he said. "Something must have happened to (Emollient)... because I thought she'd be up front. I found myself lying third and very comfortable at every point. I thought I had it won until right before the wire."
Emollient, who won the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) by nine lengths while leading throughout, failed to mount a charge rounding the far turn for jockey Mike Smith.
Fiftyshadesofhay gave her Hall of Fame conditioner his third win in the Black-Eyed Susan, following Yearly Report in 2004 and Silverbulletday in 1999. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm out of the graded stakes-placed Real Quiet mare Quiet Kim, she improved her record to 3-2-2 from nine starts, with earnings of $492,490.
Jack Shinar contributed to this report.