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Preakness 2024: Gun Song wins 100th George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes

Gun Song had her owner, R. Lee Lewis, a touch worried after she finished fourth in the March 30 Gulfstream Park Oaks.

Mark Hennig, whom Lewis considers his best friend as much as his trainer of choice, reassured him the filly looked “better than ever” going into Friday’s George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

“That was all he needed to tell me,” Lewis said. “I believe everything he says.”

Gun Song made good on Hennig’s promise, giving him his first win in the 100th running of the all-filly stakes, which annually headlines the Friday before the Preakness Stakes.

“In my heart, I felt like she was a good horse,” Hennig said. “I didn’t have any doubts she was a good horse. I had a little doubt about the distance after her last race. But I didn’t have enough doubt not to try this.”

Gun Song, a 2-1 favorite, broke sharply and settled into a comfortable second place behind early leader Jeanne Marie. She easily moved to the lead at the top of the stretch and was never threatened by late charges from Corposo and Call Another Play, winning by 3 1/4 lengths.

The Black-Eyed Susan victory was a first for Hennig but a record fifth for 52-year-old Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who broke a tie with Chris McCarron.

“It felt like she was doing it so easy,” he said.

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When asked the key to his success in the 1 1/8 mile race, which debuted as the Pimlico Oaks in 1919 (the race wasn’t run from 1932 to 1936 or in 1950), Velazquez said: “Riding nice horses. I’m just blessed to still get these opportunities at my age.”

Gun Song paid $6.60 on a $2 bet to win, $3.80 on a $2 bet to place and $2.80 on a $2 bet to show. Runner-up Corposo paid $4 and $3.20. Third-place finisher Call Another Play paid $4.40.

The betting handle for the day was a record $28.4 million, up from $28.2 million last year.

The Black-Eyed Susan has been tough on favorites for the last two decades but amounted to a breeze for Gun Song, now a winner in three of six career starts. The “funky trip” that ruined her previous race was a distant memory Friday.

“I knew we had something possibly special,” Lewis said.

George E Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes

$300,000, 3YOs, fillies, dirt, 1 1/8 mi.

5, Gun Song, John R. Velazquez, 6.60, 3.80, 2.80

7, Corposo, Tyler Gaffalione, 4.00, 3.20

4, Call Another Play, Jaime Rodriguez, 4.40

Off: 5:49. Track: Fast. Winning time: 1:51.39. Also ran: Whocouldaskformo, Lemon Muffin, Ringy Dingy, Jeanne Marie, Recharge. Winning breeder: Marianne Stribling. Winning owner: R. Lee Lewis. Winning trainer: Mark A. Hennig