The Maryland Jockey Club has made a conscious effort in recent years to improve business on its Black-Eyed Susan program, which will be held again Friday, the day before the 142nd Preakness.
Last year, the MJC announced a record crowd of 47,956 on Black-Eyed Susan Day, an increase of 18 percent over the 42,700 who were said to have attended the prior year. Handle on the card a year ago was $18.66 million, a 4 percent increase over 2015.
The 14-race Friday card will be topped by the Grade 2, $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special, a 1 3/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up.
The card contains five other stakes, including a pair of Grade 3's, the Allaire DuPont Distaff, a 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares, and the Miss Preakness, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.
There will be a trio of $300,000 guaranteed betting pools. An all-stakes pick five begins on race 5; an all-stakes pick four starts on race 8; and a pick four will link the final four races of the day.
There also will be a daily double linking the Black-Eyed Susan and the following day's Grade 1 Preakness.
The Black-Eyed Susan has attracted a wide-open field of 11. The top players include three-time stakes winner Yorkiepoo Princess, who will be first-time Lasix after bleeding in the Grade 2 Gazelle; Dancing Rags, winner of the Grade 1 Alcibiades at 2; and Summer Luck, who has made her last three starts in Grade 1 and Grade 2 company.
The field also includes Laurel Park-based Shimmering Aspen, who has been very impressive winning her two starts this year, and a pair from the Todd Pletcher barn, Lights of Medina and Moana.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens has a strong hand in the 10-horse Pimlico Special. He will not only send out solid favorite Shaman Ghost, who won the Santa Anita Handicap in his most recent start, but also has entered Dolphus, a half-brother to Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra who is coming off an optional-claiming victory at Aqueduct.
The field also includes Grade 3 Ben Ali winner Watershed, who is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and last year's Special winner Noble Bird, who races for Mark Casse.
In the day's other stakes
DuPont Distaff: Terra Promessa, who finished second to Stellar Wind in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park last out for Steve Asmussen, heads a field of eight.
Other contenders in the $150,000 race include Mo' Green, who won the Grade 3 Top Flight at Aqueduct in her first start after being transferred to John Servis, and Power of Snunner, who was second last out in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland.
Miss Preakness: Astrollinthepark, trained by Larry Jones, will put her three-race win streak on the line. The $150,000 race drew 14 entrants, plus one also-eligible.
Pretty City Dancer, dead-heat winner of the Grade 1 Spinaway last summer at Saratoga, also figures prominently for Casse, as does Nonna Bella, who will shorten up in distance for Pletcher after tiring to fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Jim McKay Turf Sprint: Ben's Cat will try to win this $100,000 race for the fifth year in a row but will face a stiff challenge from California shipper Richard's Boy, who is trained by Peter Miller, and the quick Pay Any Price, who is vastly improved since being claimed by Gerald Bennett.
The card also includes the $100,000 Hilltop, a mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies; and the $100,000 Skipat, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.