"I've never had a lot of luck in this race," Jerkens said from his New York base. "Fe Fi Fo Fum was in a couple years ago and ran horribly. This is probably the best chance I've had."
"The thing is she's pretty tough," the trainer added. "She's only had one bad race and that was on soft turf as a 2-year-old and she seems to be a little better stretching out."
Casanova Move, a daughter of Langfuhr out of a Pleasant Colony dam, is coming off two consecutive runner-up finishes to Justwhistledixie, the last in the Grade II Bonnie Miss Stakes in Florida. Her only victory against some tough competition was her maiden win at Saratoga last summer.
"She seems to be doing good and I don't see any real standouts in there," said Jerkens.
Hooh Why notched an impressive score in the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland two races ago and was third, beaten only by two noses, in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks in the start previous to that one. As a result, she is the top earner in the field by far, banking $447,627 for owners Derby Daze Farm Inc. and Mark Hoffman.
Others who merit consideration in the Black-Eyed Susan are Don't Forget Gil, second in the Grade II Comely over a sloppy Aqueduct track on April 11, and Larry Jones-trained Payton d'Oro, who is stepping up in company after three straight victories.
GRADE II BLACK-EYED SUSAN STAKES
PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Hooh Why D. Dupuy No rider 2-1
2 Payton D'Oro L. Jones T. Thompson 5-1
3 Combinate R. Jenkins E. Camacho 30-1
4 Stone Legacy D. Lukas K. Desormeaux 10-1
5 Bon Jovi Girl T. Ritchey J. Caraballo 12-1
6 Stage Trick A. Goldberg J. Castellano 30-1
7 Casanova Move J. Jerkens J. Lezcano 3-1
8 Don't Forget Gil M. Hennig R. Maragh 9-2
9 Oro Blanco T. Tullock J. Rose 12-1
10 Renda J. Arias S. Madrid 10-1
Mani Bhavan comes off a seven-month hiatus to challenge seven other fillies in the Grade III, $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes, Friday's secondary feature. Trained by Steve Klesaris at Fair Hill, Mani Bhavan has chalked up wins in three of her four career starts, including two at the graded level, and has earned a race high $264,000.
"She's coming off the bench against a good group of horses, seasoned fillies," said Klesaris who will have Alan Garcia in the saddle. "This is the way to get her started right. There are no gimmes in graded races."
The major competition appears to be Heart Ashley, fresh from a Grade III triumph at Aqueduct in March and Gatorette, an impressive two-time winner in Florida before stumbling and finishing fifth in her last start.
A host of familiar rivals will attempt to spoil Heros Reward's quest for a third consecutive victory in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint which has been shifted from the Preakness card to Friday. Laurel Park-based under trainer Dale Capuano, Heros Reward has 13 to beat, including familiar rivals like Smart Enough, True to Tradition and Rouse the Cat.
"There are a lot of nice horses in there and we've been fortunate to beat them," said Capuano. “It's very competitive and you always worry about traffic when this many are in. The purse is shrinking and the field is getting bigger and better.”
The other stakes of the Friday card are the $50,000 The Very One Stakes, the $50,000 Hilltop Stakes, the $50,000 Skipat Stakes and $35,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes.
The Friday card also includes the inaugural Jockey Challenge featuring eight of the nation’s top jockeys, Rafael Bejarano, Javier Castellano, Kent Desormeaux, Ramon Dominguez, Garrett Gomez, Julien Leparoux, Mario Pino and Mike Smith. Races three, five, seven and ten have been designated Jockey Challenge races. The jockey with the most points at the end of a four-race competition will be crowned champion. Riding assignments were drawn Sunday. Jockeys receive points for finishing first (12 points), second (6), third (4) and fourth (3) in each race. The champion jockey will earn $14,000. Other prize money: $10,000 (second); $8,000 (third) and $3,500 (fourth through eighth). The Maryland Jockey Club teamed up with the Jockeys’ Guild for the event and will make a $5,000 contribution to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.