Twelve days ago MI Developments Inc. revealed a $5.5 million bonus program for the Grade I Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. Tuesday, the company announced a similar, $2.2 million bonus for the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan stakes that has been traditionally run for fillies the Friday before the Preakness.
To qualify for the $2.2 million bonus, $2 million of which goes to the owner and $200,000 to the trainer, a filly has to win three designated races at Gulfstream Park (the Forward Gal Stakes, the Davona Dale and the Oaks) or two at Santa Anita Park (the Las Virgenes and the Santa Anita Oaks) and the Gulfstream Oaks, or win the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields, the Santa Anita Oaks and the Gulfstream Park Oaks. A similar path has been mapped for fillies competing in the Portland Meadows Oaks at Portland Meadows, and then going on to win the Oaks at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita.
It might be a Herculean task for a filly to qualify for the newly announced Black-Eyed Susan 2.2, but as Laurel Park-based trainer Mike Trombetta said, anything can happen in horse racing.
"Sometimes you don't even know you have a horse of that caliber until you get down the road," said Trombetta, who also trains horses at Gulfstream in the winter.
At Laurel, Trombetta brought Sweetnorthernsaint out of obscurity to win the Illinois Derby before coaching him to a second-place finish in the Preakness.
"It may be an extreme possibility," he said. "But if you've got a filly who might be good enough, you're going to go for it. And anything that offers additional money to owners with good horses is a good thing."
Besides the 2.2 Black-Eyed Susan bonus, there will be an XpressBet-sponsored consolation prize of $220,000 awarded to any owner and trainer whose filly wins the Black-Eyed Susan after also placing first, second or third in all her qualifying races, provided she was not eligible for the Black Eyed Susan 2.2.
"It's pretty difficult to win the $2.2 million," Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. "But it is something to shoot for. The $220,000 is a little easier. And both the 2.2 Black-Eyed Susan bonus and the 5.5Preakness bonus have the potential to help local horsemen. The bonus opportunities for both those races should generate more interest, better field sizes and increased wagering. A portion of the money being wagered goes into the purse fund," which will help the local purse structure.
Adding to the excitement for the connections of entered horses, whether bonus-qualified or not, is that the Black-Eyed Susan purse will increase from $150,000 to $250,000 this May.
There also will be an additional $50,000 bonus from AmTote to the winning Black-Eyed Susan jockey if he also rode the winner of one of the qualifying races and competed in at least one other qualifying race.
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