Among 12 Stakes, Seven Graded, on Oct. 3 Preakness Day Program
BALTIMORE – Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Grade 1 winner Wicked Whisper, making just her sixth career start, looks to return to the winner’s circle for the first time in nearly a year when she lines up against six rivals in the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) Saturday, Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course.
The 35th running of the six-furlong Miss Preaknessy for 3-year-old fillies is part of a Preakness Day program of 12 stakes races, seven graded, worth $2.7 million in purses featuring the $1 million Preakness (G1) for 3-year-olds and $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.
A $500,000 yearling purchase in September 2018, Wicked Whisper debuted last August at Saratoga with a popular front-running 6 ¼-length triumph. She was stepped right into stakes company by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and captured the one-mile Frizette (G1) in similar fashion at Belmont Park.
From there, Wicked Whisper ran fifth after pressing the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), exiting the race with a minor leg issue. She didn’t kick off her 3-year-old season until June 10, fading to be fourth behind Four Graces in the seven-furlong Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland.
“She’s done well [but] she’s had a couple issues. She had [one] out of the Breeders’ Cup and we got that one up going and then I’ll be darned if she didn’t get another one on the other leg,” Alex Lieblong said. “So, we took it slow. When she ran back she ran into a very good filly but I think, knowing Steve, he probably hadn’t squeezed on her much with what had happened. She seems to be over that.”
In most recent start Wicked Whisper rallied to be second by a half-length in the seven-furlong Charles Town Oaks (G3), contested around two turns at unique six-furlong track. She has trained forwardly since with Asmussen’s string in Saratoga.
“She ran a pretty good race over at Charles Town, especially for being a new experience running at that track. She didn’t get the greatest start but almost got there,” Lieblong said. “It showed me that she still wants to play. She seems to be training very well. I haven’t heard any moans or groans out of Steve, so that’s a good thing.”
Joe Bravo has the mount on Wicked Whisper from Post 2. Asmussen won the Miss Preakness with Heart Ashley in 2009 and Vertical Oak in 2017.
“I don’t have any excuses. It looks like there’s plenty of pace in the race, but pace has never really been her problem,” Lieblong said. “Charles Town, I think, tightened her up the right way. It’ll be what it is. She shouldn’t have any excuses at this point.”
Nearly half the Miss Preakness field comes from Laurel Park-based trainer Claudio Gonzalez, Maryland’s champion trainer three years running who entered Charles Town Oaks winner Fly On Angel, Beyond the Wire winner Princess Cadey and multiple stakes-placed Ankle Monitor.
Gonzalez claimed Fly On Angel for $50,000 in August on behalf of owner Joseph Besecker, and the Palace Malice filly immediately paid dividends with her gate-to-wire triumph in the Oaks. It was the fourth win from nine career starts for Fly On Angel, who posted splits of 22.81 and 46.25 seconds.
“She looks like she likes to go in front, so that’s why I told the jockey that day to make sure she was in front,” Gonzalez said. “She’s fast. She went out front and she held on. She went fast for the first half of a mile and she held it. I think the six furlongs is only going to help her.”
Angel Cruz gets the call on Fly On Angel from Post 3.
Gonzalez considered running Magic Stable’s Princess Cadey in Saturday’s $100,000 Hilltop, contested at one mile over the Pimlico turf, but opted to stay on dirt with the Dialed In filly who was third in the Oaks just a nose behind Wicked Whisper. Princess Cadey was second in the Wide Country that preceded her Beyond the Wire win, both coming before live racing was paused for 2 ½ months in Maryland amid the coronavirus pandemic. She is winless in four tries since racing returned, finishing sixth in the about 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss Sept. 7 at Laurel.
Princess Cadey is another Gonzalez claim, haltered for $16,000 last December. She is twice Grade 3-placed in the Charles Town and July 4 Delaware Oaks, where she was beaten less than two lengths by Black-Eyed Susan contender Project Whiskey. Weston Hamilton has the riding assignment from outside Post 7.
“When I claimed her she had run better on grass than on dirt,” Gonzalez said. “After we came back from the break, she didn’t break that sharp in all her races. In the Delaware Oaks, I believe if we break good we could win the race. Then at Charles Town, if we break good we can win the race. She lost only a half-length in that race. We’ve been working with her to break a little better and if we can get a good position, I think we can make it.”
Magic Stable also owns Ankle Monitor, fourth in each of her past two starts, the Charles Town Oaks and Weber City Miss, beaten 5 ½ lengths combined. She has never run at six furlongs but owns wins at five and seven furlongs and one mile, and will be ridden by Victor Carrasco from Post 6.
e Five Thoroughbred Racing’s Sound Machine will be making her second straight start against graded company, having run fifth to Frank’s Rockette in the six-furlong Prioress (G2) Sept. 5 at Saratoga, her first race in more than six months. Another $500,000 yearling out of the September 2018 sale, the Into Mischief filly won the 6 ½-furlong Glitter Woman Jan. 4 and was second in the six-furlong Any Limit and House Party, all at Gulfstream Park.
“Her first race back off a layoff was a tough place to start her back, but we had to get her started. I thought she ran credibly behind some nice horses,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “This spot is not going to be easy but it’s going to be probably a little easier than the last spot. She’s going to ship [Tuesday] from Gulfstream and hopefully she runs her race. I think she goes in with a nice chance.”
Mundaye Call, track record-setting winner of the seven-furlong Audubon Oaks Aug. 9 at Ellis Park, and Ain’t No Elmers are also entered.