Photo of horses breaking from the startying gate (above) by Eclipse Sportswire. All others by Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing.
Black-Eyed Susan day began quite damply at Pimlico Race Course; there was a massive storm that plowed through Baltimore on Thursday evening, and it parked itself over Charm City and continued to dump water on the town until midday on Friday. However, horse racing fans and professionals have never let a little weather slow them down, so when it came time to kick off the afternoon’s events I was ready to go and eager to start a great day of racing.
Black-Eyed Susan day began with an acknowledgement of the Hall of Fame jockeys who would be riding at Pimlico today. There were some serious stars of the sport; from left to right they are: John Velazquez, Alex Solis, Mike Smith, Edgar Prado, Kent Desormeaux, Calvin Borel and Russell Baze. I think it’s so cool that so many talented athletes were gathered in one place for Black-Eyed Susan day, and the guys were clearly having a great time with the event. They were laughing and goofing off; Mike Smith even stole Ms. Racing Queen’s sash!
And Kent Desormeaux and Russell Baze were fascinated by Calvin Borel’s pants:
After that, it was time for the National Anthem. Country singer and Maryland native Sarah Gray had the honor, and she sang a beautiful rendition as horses came out onto the track for the first race.
Then the All-Star Buglers came out to perform the "Call to the Post," the traditional melody associated with horse racing.
After that, we had a little time before the first major race of the afternoon. I decided to explore a little, and I was delighted to find out that the wet weather hadn’t put a damper on the Baltimore racing fashion scene.
And humans weren’t the only ones showing off their Black-Eyed Susan best today – the horses were all done up, too! Pony horses have the job of escorting their racing cousins from the paddock (where the racehorses are saddled) to the starting gate. Because they’re such visible parts of the race day, the pony horses’ riders often like to get their mounts dolled up for big days – and these ponies looked amazing!
Of course, there always has to be one jokester in the group….
Right back at you, buddy!
As the afternoon continued and the big races drew nearer, the crowd thickened and vendors wandered the fascility, filling Pimlico with cried of, “Ice cold beer here!” and “Black-Eyed SUSANS!”
Sadly, since I was at the races in a professional capacity, I wasn’t able to indulge in a tasty beverage, but I have my plans to have one after the Preakness on Saturday for sure.
After I was through pining for alcohol that was gone but not forgotten, it was time for the first major race of the afternoon: the Skipat Stakes. I decided to shoot it from the roof at Pimlico. It’s a bit harder on my trusty little Nikon, but I’ve always loved the angle the roof affords. Here’s #3 Lion D N A taking the Skipat with determination:
After that, I headed down to the ground level to get photos of the next stakes race from the more traditional perspective. As I headed toward the finish line to get in my place, I passed something that I thought you’d find interesting. Here we go: many races have sponsors, and the very next race will have a different company with naming rights. One of the places that the track offers visibility is by placing a sign on the starting gate; that means that, between each race, the signs have to be changed. Therefore, it’s up to the assistant starters (whose regular job is to keep horses and jockeys safe in the starting gate and get them out and racing in good order) to replace the signs:
“No big deal,” you’re thinking? Let’s look at it from a wider angle:
That man is about 10 feet up in the air, poised on two thin metal edges, grappling with a sign that’s half of his height. These guys are insanely brave. Especially when you consider that his feet must have been pretty slippery from the muddy racetrack thanks to all of the rain.
I then had to hustle to the race track, because my musings were making me late for the next big race: the Rollicking Stakes. This is a race for 2-year-olds just starting out their careers, and it’s always fun to see these young horses run. Who knows? You may even see one in next year’s Preakness Stakes.
The Rollicking unfortunately had a lot of horses withdraw due to the muddy conditions, but Governmentshutdown still provided for a thrill, winning with ease.
While jockey Jose Betancourt came back to the winner’s circle a little dirty, he was definitely pleased with his achievement.
Up next was the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, which unfortunately had to be taken off of the grass because it was too wet to run on the lawn. I was so, so happy to see Ben’s Cat take this race – he’s a local favorite (not to mention the fact that he’s a stunningly beautiful horse).
After the Jim McKay, it was time for the main event: the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. There were 11 contenders ready to compete for the $500,000 prize money, and as the 3-year-old fillies swept past the grandstand for the first time it was Image of Anna with a strong early run with Sloane Square and Vero Amore right behind her.
But as the horses entered the homestretch for the final time and battled for the finish line, it was a game little Stopchargingmaria who put down a late drive and got in front to win the Black-Eyed Susan.
It’s a huge achievement to win the Black-Eyed Susan, and I’m sure that her owner Mike Repole is incredibly proud of his filly.
After the Black-Eyed Susan, there were two more big races next: the Miss Preakness Stakes and the Pimlico Special. I decided to shoot the Miss Preakness from the roof again (both because of the aforementioned angle and also because I didn’t have a ton of time to make it downstairs for the race.)
In a totally fitting turn of events, Miss Behaviour won the Miss Preakness Stakes with ease. What a great name to put down in that race’s history books!
Then, it was time for the final big race of the day: the Pimlico Special. This race is a consistent favorite of mine, routinely drawing a talented field of horses. This year was no exception, and I had no idea who would come out on top when a friend of mine asked for my picks.
When the race began, I noticed something a little weird: as the field thundered by me for the first time, Revolutionary (the favorite) was nowhere to be seen; instead, he was trailing the field by lengths, and I actually turned to the photographer next to me and said, “Well, looks like someone hates the wet in the racetrack!”
Ha! Just goes to show how much I know. Because when the horses came around the track again, it was Revolutionary moving in dramatic last-to-first action to win the Pimlico Special by a neck.
Jockey Mike Smith was jubilant after the win; I always love his victories in big races – the man knows how to celebrate!
With that, my Black-Eyed Susan day came to a close as the sun began to set over Pimlico Race Course. Thank you so much for joining me, and I’ll be back tomorrow with all of the action out of Preakness day!