Trainer Ralph Nicks sees opportunity in the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday for undefeated Maracuya, the least experienced filly in a nine-filly field.
Maracuya has raced twice – defeating maidens at six furlongs at Gulfstream Park and leading all the way in a mile allowance race there. On Friday, she’ll be trying two turns for the first time, running a mile and an eighth in Grade II company.
“A big step, but I think she wants two turns, and this time of year with a 3-year-old filly, I mean, what else do you do with them?’’ Nicks said Wednesday. “I don’t have a lot of choices.’’
The favorites in the race will be Emollient, trained by Bill Mott, and Fiftyshadesofhay, trained by Bob Baffert.
The issue for Emollient, who overpowered her rivals in the Grade I Ashland on Polytrack at Keeneland, will be whether she can retain such form as she moves back to dirt.
Fiftyshadesofhay couldn’t keep up with talented Beholder when finishing second in the Grade I Las Virgenes and third in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks.
“Beyond that, it’s a competitive race, but it is what it is,’’ Nicks said. “It’s a good place to take a chance. … Experience is against us, but I think the filly wants the distance. She’s bred for it. She’s basically told me all along she wants to go around two turns. She has to prove it, but she’s doing well.’’
Maracuya is a daughter of Big Brown and the Jade Hunder mare Jealous and Jaded.
“She’ll be forwardly placed,’’ Nicks said. “The race could have a lot of pace, or it could be one of those races, maybe not so much. The break’s going to play the whole key, who gets away clean probably is going to dictate how fast we’re going.’’
Nicks won the Grade I Humana Distaff on Derby Day with the 4-year-old filly Aubby K, who also won the Grade II Inside Information this year at Gulfstream.
“If this one goes on to follow in the footsteps of that other one, that would be good,’’ Nicks said. “A 15-horse stable, that wouldn’t be too bad. … She doesn’t have to win to validate that she’s a good horse, because she’s going to move forward.’’