Pletcher Scraps Saturday Work for Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Contender Moana; Connections ‘Leaning Toward’ Black-Eyed Susan for Shimmering Aspen

Pletcher Scraps Saturday Work for Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Contender Moana
Connections ‘Leaning Toward’ Black-Eyed Susan for Shimmering Aspen
Longines Dixie (G2)-Bound World Approval ‘Hasn’t Lost a Step’ at 5
‘The Coach’ Will be Back at Pimlico
BALTIMORE – Overnight rain that carried into Saturday morning forced trainer Todd Pletcher to call another audible with 3-year-old filly Moana’s preparations for the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Friday, May 19.
Bridlewood Farm and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Moana, an impressive maiden winner at Keeneland last month, galloped over a sloppy, sealed main track at historic Pimlico Race Course shortly after her Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning stablemate Always Dreaming returned from the track.
“She galloped a mile and a quarter right after we were finished with him,” Pletcher said. “I thought about working her and it looks it might clear up this afternoon. We’re probably going to work her tomorrow, as long as I’m happy with the track, even if it’s wet. We’re kind of running out of time now.”
A sloppy track also caused Pletcher to postpone a planned work on Friday for Moana, who will be making just her third career start and stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan, which is supported by six stakes, three graded, on the undercard.
“She’s a quality filly, [one] we’ve always thought a lot of and feel like she’s a true two-turn-type filly. I think the mile and an eighth will suit her well,” Pletcher said. “She lacks a bit of experience and seasoning but hopefully she can make up for it with natural ability.”
Connections ‘Leaning Toward’ Black-Eyed Susan for Shimmering Aspen
Trainer Rodney Jenkins said Saturday that Hillwood Stable’s Shimmering Aspen, riding a three-race win streak, would most likely make her next start and stakes debut in the Black-Eyed Susan.
Shimmering Aspen is also nominated to the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3) on the undercard. The Miss Preakness is run at six furlongs, while the Black-Eyed Susan is contested at 1 1/8 miles.
“We’re going to probably enter both races. When the entries come out I’ll make a decision from there. I’m leaning toward the Black-Eyed Susan,” Jenkins said. “She’s doing well and that’s the way I want to go, but I don’t want to overextend her either. She’s just run the four times and only lost once. She’s doing good. If the race looks decent, we’ll go in the Black-Eyed Susan.”
Third behind subsequent stakes winner Star Super in her debut last summer, Shimmering Aspen has won her last three races by 16 ¼ lengths, none of them longer than the seven-furlong allowance of her last start April 29 at Laurel Park.
With jockey Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton aboard, Shimmering Aspen breezed six furlongs in 1:15 at Pimlico Wednesday. Hamilton will be up no matter which race she runs next weekend.
“When I worked her over there the other day she galloped out better than she worked,” Laurel-based Jenkins said. “She didn’t really work that impressive to me. Stevie Hamilton gave her a nice easy work instead of knocking her out for the race, and I was so impressed the way she galloped out. We’re pleased with her.”
Jenkins also plans to run Top of Mind, second by a half-length in the Commonwealth Turf Cup (G2) last fall, in the $250,000 Longines Dixie (G2) Saturday, May 20. Also owned by Ellen Charles of Hillwood, Top of Mind worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 Friday morning at Laurel.
“He’s doing great. He had a heckuva nice work yesterday in the slop and he acted like he liked that,” Jenkins said. “He worked good. He’s always a horse that works in like a minute, minute and one going five-eighths and he did that yesterday. He seemed to come out of it so far good. He’s a decent horse. We’ve had a lot of fun with him.”
Dixie-Bound World Approval ‘Hasn’t Lost a Step’ at 5
Live Oak Plantation’s World Approval, winner of last year’s United Nations Handicap (G1) at Monmouth Park, can bust through millionaire status in the Dixie. The nearly white 5-year-old gelding was scratched from Churchill Downs’ Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) because of soft turf conditions after two days of rain.
World Approval is part of trainer Mark Casse’s strong arsenal bound for Pimlico, headed by major Preakness Stakes (G1) contender Classic Empire. World Approval worked five-eighths of a mile Friday at Churchill in 1:01, the fastest of 10 works at the distance, with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard.
“We think he’ll really like it over there; he’s doing really well,” said Norman Casse, who oversees the Kentucky operation for his father. “He worked awesome. We just didn’t know how soft it was going to get (at Churchill). His one real bad race was on soft ground, and we knew how well he was doing. And we had other horses in the race. It just made more sense to wait for Preakness Day to run him.”
World Approval has raced once this year, winning the Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs April 2 after a 5 1/2-month layoff. He’s 7-2-3 in 17 turf starts, earning $944,014 on grass, with a third in two dirt starts in his only races as a 2-year-old.
“He certainly hasn’t lost a step,” Casse said. “He’s been working well leading up to his first start of the year, ran awesome, and has worked really well since. He seems to be getting even better, so we’ll see.”
Live Oak also will have Victory to Victory in the $100,000 Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf May 19. The barn sees her as an emerging star, joining her more established stablemates in the same division in La Colonel and Dream Dancing, the 1-2 finishers of Churchill Downs’ Edgewood Stakes (G3).
Victory to Victory was the good-looking winner of a Keeneland allowance race on April 23. That was her first start since earning her first victory in Woodbine’s Natalma Stakes (G1), after which she had to be scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) with a hoof abscess.
“We were really impressed with her allowance race at Keeneland,” Casse said. “We knew she’d run well, and she certainly didn’t disappoint. And she’s trained great since then. We’re really excited to get her back in stakes company and think she’s really primed to have a big year.
“Early winter, when she started training again, you could tell she was almost like a different horse — in a good way,” he added “She was a good horse as a 2-year-old, obviously, but she really seems to be touting herself now. We have a really good problem right now because we have three really talented turf fillies. We’re going to have a lot of fun with those horses all year long.”
Other Casse horses running next Friday or Saturday at Pimlico include Summer Luck, who failed to draw into the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) last week, in the Black Eyed Susan; and Pretty City Dancer, last summer’s Spinaway (G1) winner at Saratoga, in the Miss Preakness; (G3) at six furlongs. Noble Bird is a possibility for the historic $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3), a race he won last year.
‘The Coach’ Will be Back at Pimlico
Six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas doesn’t have a horse this year for the Triple Crown’s Middle Jewel, but the Hall of Fame trainer will again be a fixture at Pimlico that weekend.
Lukas is running the 3-year-old colt Aquamarine in the $200,000 Chick Lang and stakes-placed 3-year-old filly My Sweet Stella in the Hilltop on grass. Both are owned by Zayat Stables, which two years ago won the Preakness with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Aquamarine is one-for-one for Lukas, taking a Keeneland allowance race after having a win and two fourths in three starts in California for trainer Bob Baffert. The cleverly-named Aquamarine — a son of Gemologist out of the mare April True, even if aquamarine is the March birthstone — has two bullet workouts at Churchill Downs since his April 22 Keeneland score.
“I think it’s a good fit for him,” Lukas said, despite suffering from laryngitis, the result of an apparent virus that had afflicted his wife, Laurie. “There aren’t many straight 3-year-old sprint races left. Most are 3 and up. I think it’s a good fit to take advantage of that.”
My Sweet Stella is going back to the turf after racing on dirt at Oaklawn Park, where she was second in two stakes. The daughter of Eskendereya broke her maiden on grass.
“Those listed stakes back there are a nice fit for those horses at this stage of their career,” Lukas said. “The hospitality at Pimlico is second to none. It’s a little bit more laid back. The races are excellent and there are lots of them, a heavy stakes schedule those two days. It’s just a fun place to be.”