BALTIMORE – Sloshing in the mud with visions of an upset, Nik Juarez guided long-shot Actress through a memorable maiden-breaking voyage Friday in the Black-Eyed Susan.
After a sudden and intense rainstorm turned the track at Pimlico Race Course into a sloppy mess, Actress outlasted Lights of Medina by a neck in the prestigious Grade II race for 3-year-old fillies.
It was the third career race for Actress following a pair of second-place finishes. Trained by Jason Servis, the filly paid $27.60, $10.60 and $7.80.
After previously running six and seven furlongs, Actress found her groove at 1 1/8 miles. She was sixth at the 3/4 pole before closing with a flourish.
“They were running fast up front and I was sitting behind,” Juarez said. “She ate the dirt up. When she made her move, she really started running and carried it on.”
Lights of Medina, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Feargal Lynch, beat third-place finisher Corporate Queen by two lengths.
Like Actress, Lights of Medina made up plenty of distance in the latter stage of the race. But she didn’t have enough of a push to overtake the winner.
“She just missed a head bob,” Pletcher said. “It was a great effort by her.”
Pletcher also trains Moana, who finished fifth. He can only hope for better results Saturday, when he saddles Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming in the Preakness.
A beautiful day at Pimlico changed quickly about an hour before post-time for the Black-Eyed Susan. After a fierce rain sent fans scurrying for cover, thunderclaps rang in the distance as the horses prepared to enter the starting gate.
Though the rain let up before the start, the horses galloped through huge puddles during an intriguing race.
Corporate Queen was left far behind at the outset, was still the trailer at the 1/2 pole and eighth in the stretch before finishing strong.
“It took her a little bit to figure it out,” trainer Ron Moquett said. “We didn’t even know if she was going to try, and then she did.”
Favorite Shimmering Aspen finished seventh in the 11-horse field and Summer Luck, the third-favorite, was eighth.
Earlier Friday, heavily favored Shaman Ghost stormed past stablemate Dolphus in the final eighth of a mile to win the Grade III Pimlico Special by a neck.
Ridden masterfully by Javier Castellano, Shaman Ghost won for the eighth time in 16 lifetime races. He paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10.
“I could have gone to the lead any time,” Castellano said, “but I didn’t want to.”
Conquest Windycity finished third.