`Blues' is in bloom for Black Eyed Susan

Local filly is small, but has a big heart

May 19, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It's not the size of the horse in the fight, but the size of the fight in the horse.

That is the appropriate motto for the diminutive filly that jockey Mark Johnston said "is not as big as a peanut" but has the heart of a lion.

Case of the Blues hooks the big girls for the first time today at Pimlico in the 76th running of the Grade II, $200,000 Black Eyed Susan Stakes, the female version of the Preakness.

The Laurel-based filly will provide a local rooting interest against the likes of the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Cash Run , Kentucky Oaks runner-up Rings a Chime and Search Party, a Shug McGaughey trainee from New York with a three-race winning streak."She's doing as well as she can do and may never get another shot like this," said her trainer, Hamilton Smith. "She has earned the chance to run in the Black Eyed Susan."

Case of the Blues has captured four straight Maryland stakes races and before that, finished second by a head to stablemate Gin Talking in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship last winter.

Barely 800 pounds soaking wet and 15 hands high, she is intrepid, gritty and determined."She actually thinks she's bigger than those other fillies," said Smith. "Everybody likes her because of her size and determination. They like to see the little ones do well."

A graphic example of her will came in her last race, the Caesars Wish Stakes at Pimlico on April 22. The so-called speed horses were anything but speedy in the 11/16-mile test, making it tough for the closers."The speed wasn't backing up. They were crawling [1:151/5 for six furlongs] on the front end," said Smith. "That really hurt us. I didn't think she could get up, but she did anyway."

Case of the Blues was cross-entered in Wednesday's Hilltop Stakes on the turf, but scratched to the Black Eyed Susan even though she had shown an affinity for the grass."She worked on turf and really handled it well," said Smith. "She probably could have been first or second in that race, but the owners wanted to take a chance."

Smith realizes the opposition is stiff. Search Party, for instance, has won handily against strong New York opposition."Edgar [Prado] said his filly did it awfully easy the last time," said Smith, for whom Prado rode regularly before leaving Maryland. "He had a lot of gas left the last time and Shug always has a barnful of winners."

Rings a Chime has competed well well in Grade I company four consecutive times and Cash Run captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall.

Smith wouldn't mind some precipitation today, a possibility according to the forecast."She's worked in the slop and being a small filly, she has a little foot, so that helps her take hold," said the trainer.

Case of the Blues has the home-track advantage, has won at the 1 1/8 -mile distance of the Susan and will have a familiar rider in Johnston, who has never lost with her."There's a lot of speed in here," said Smith. "But there are two or three fillies that, if they don't make the lead, they might not run their race. My filly has a good quarter-mile run in her. If she's good enough, she'll get there. I guess you'd have to say that up to now, Case of the Blues is the best filly I've ever had. Gin Talking has more natural ability but some problems."Up to this age [3], no filly I've had has ever earned more money than Case of the Blues [$263,889]. And she's done it all in a year. She hasn't run a bad race yet."

Silverbulletday won the 1999 Black Eyed Susan after scratching from the Preakness because of an unfavorable post-position draw.

In the $100,000 Gallorette at 11/16 miles on the turf today, Colstar attracted top weight of 120 pounds based on a 5-for-8 lifetime record. Silver Comic and Irish-bred Jig look like serious contenders.

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