The 2018 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) is an odd mixture of fillies.
There's a maiden who is still winless in 10 tries. There's six fillies who have been beaten by an average of 11 1/4 lengths in their last starts, albeit against quality competition. There's a hard-knocker who appears to run her race every time but hasn't found the winner's circle with any regularity.
But there's also a unique entrant who is on an island representing the home team in Maryland's premier race for sophomore fillies.
She's a Maryland-bred by a Maryland sire, conditioned by a relatively unknown Maryland-based trainer.
And she happens to be undefeated, unlike the rest of the field May 18 for the $250,000 stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
But what might make Kasey K Racing Stable, Michael Day, and Final Turn Racing Stable's Goodonehoney something special is that she's won her two races without much going her way, and the results have been more than impressive.
Before her March 24 debut at Laurel Park, Goodonehoney worked well enough in the morning, but Jason Egan, her 36-year-old trainer, wasn't overly impressed until her last timed work for the race. In her first drill from the gate, something changed.
"I called (Kasey K Racing Stable owner Bob) Krangel right after the work and said, 'I'm not going to blow smoke, but that was the best work of her life,'" Egan said.
Then she drew the rail in the six-furlong waiver maiden claiming race (Maryland-breds have the option of not running for a tag), a position that has sunk many a talented debut runner.
"As a trainer, when the overnight comes out and you draw the rail first time out, you're not feeling good, no matter how well they work," Egan said. "Then she broke poorly and put herself in a bad spot."
Seventh out of the gate, she advanced on the rail and found herself fourth behind a trio of frontrunners entering the Laurel turn. A little rank behind horses and still locked in on the inside, she ran up on the leaders' heels as one of the three began to tire, then split the remaining pair in the stretch, surged to the front, and pulled away late to win by 4 3/4 lengths.
"It was an eye-catching thing, because when they don't break, they can rush up and spit it," Egan said. "And what you don't see watching the replay is how well she galloped out."
Her connections thought about entry-level allowance options after that, but they weren't at ideal distances or possibly wouldn't fill, so as is common for 3-year-old options in the spring, a stakes figured to be next. A stretch out to about a mile and a sixteenth at Laurel fit into her schedule.
Again on the rail in the Weber City Miss Stakes, Goodonehoney broke well in her second start, but she got caught inside in the first turn and got keen again with jockey Steve Hamilton. But as the field entered the backstretch, Hamilton decided not to fight her and sent her through on the rail. She hit the front and opened up a lead. With a longshot chasing, Goodonehoney never got a breather, ran the half-mile in :46.76, and kicked away midway through the second turn. Still a little green, she went to her wrong lead in the stretch but still powered to the wire seven lengths ahead of Indy Union, who will be back to challenge in the Black-Eyed Susan.
"When she hit the front, I saw her ears were pricked, and she was clicking off good fractions but was happy doing it," Egan said. "She was too keyed up early, but she overcame it."
So now the trainer with 10 horses in his barn at Laurel (and another five 2-year-olds or so soon arriving) will make just his second graded stakes try on one of the most important days on the Maryland racing calendar, and he's already felt the support of the local community.
"Maryland is my second home now," said Egan, a native of Seattle and a product of the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program. "I feel like I've made some good friends, and I've had a lot of people who have reached out and offered encouragement, and they're excited to see what she can do.
"It's exciting and an honor to represent the home team."
Goodonehoney is out of the Tenpins mare Diva's Gold, a $15,000 claim by Kasey K Racing in 2010 who went on to place in five stakes. The first foal out of Diva's Gold, a Jump Start colt, didn't make it to the races, but the second is Goodonehoney, who has earned $99,453 in her two starts. Diva's Gold had a Kasey K Racing-bred Friesan Fire filly named Reigning Fire in 2016.
"It's a good way to trick yourself into thinking the breeding game is easy," Egan said, half-joking.
While Goodonehoney is wading into graded waters for the first time, every other entrant has competed at the level, although only Coach Rocks has won. The Oxbow filly trained by Dale Romans (who also has C. S. Incharge in the race) took the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) March 31 before a seventh-place finish in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Godolphin's Sara Street, a daughter of Street Sense trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, wasn't far off last time out April 7 when she came up a half-length short to My Miss Lilly in the Gazelle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack. In her previous start, she came in second behind fellow Black-Eyed Susan entrant Midnight Disguise (fourth in the Gazelle) in the March 3 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct.
Pimlico Race Course, Friday, May 18, 2018, Race 11
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Tell Your Mama (KY) Javier Castellano 116 Robert B. Hess, Jr. 20/1 2 2Midnight Disguise (NY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 120 Linda Rice 4/1 3 3Coach Rocks (KY) Luis Saez 120 Dale L. Romans 7/2 4 4Red Ruby (KY) Paco Lopez 118 Kellyn Gorder 5/1 5 5Mihrab (KY) Jevian Toledo 116 H. Graham Motion 30/1 6 6C. S. Incharge (KY) Julien R. Leparoux 116 Dale L. Romans 15/1 7 7Goodonehoney (MD) Steve D. Hamilton 118 Jason Egan 5/1 8 8Indy Union (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Jeremiah C. Englehart 10/1 9 9Sara Street (KY) Dylan Davis 116 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 4/1 10 10Stakes On a Plane (KY) Sheldon Russell 116 Jeff Talley 20/1
Pimlico Race Course, Friday, May 18, 2018, Race 11