Hennig, Lewis Share Black-Eyed Susan Win With Gun Song

Hennig, Lewis Share Black-Eyed Susan Win With Gun Song
Hennig, Lewis Share Black-Eyed Susan Win With Gun Song

In the 1993 Kentucky Derby (G1), trainer Mark Hennig and owner R. Lee Lewis had heart palpitations as they watched their 3-year-old Personal Hope cruising on the lead with a quarter-mile left in the classic.

They thought jockey Gary Stevens had plenty of horse underneath him.

But the euphoria disappeared as Rokeby Stables’ Sea Hero charged to the front in the stretch and Personal Hope faded to fourth at the wire.

“I said to Lee as we watched (owner) Paul Mellon and (trainer) Mac Miller get the trophies, ‘They’re old. They’re 80-something years old. We have all this time. We’ll be back. ‘” Hennig said.

In the ensuing 31 years, Hennig and Lewis did not win the Kentucky Derby. The closest Hennig came to a Triple Crown win was Eddington‘s third in the 2004 Preakness Stakes (G1).

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And while Hennig has won a slew of graded stakes in a career that features $82.7 million in earnings, he did not win a graded stakes from 2019-23.

Lewis, in the course of 2005-23 had just three graded stakes wins under his own name.

Then came May 17, Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico Race Course when Gun Song returned Hennig and Lewis to a prominent stage and gave them a treasured thrill as the 3-year-old daughter of gun runner notched a 3 1/4-length victory in the $300,000 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) on a day when a record $28.4 million was wagered on Preakness Eve.

“Lee said something about (the 1993 Kentucky Derby) today. He said, ‘Who knew?’ I told him, ‘At least we’re not in our 80s.'” said the now 59-year-old Hennig.

The smiles and laughs all around in the winner’s circle told the uplifting story of a trainer and owner who have known each other for about 40 years, dating back to the time when Hennig was an assistant for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Over the years, they enjoyed the good times and stayed together during the lean years, making Friday’s victory so rewarding.

“It’s been a while,” said Hennig, who had not won a graded stakes since 2018. “The time always makes it sweeter.”

For Lewis the victory with his trainer and close friend marked his first graded stakes win since 2013.

“We’ve gone through so many personal things together,” Lewis said. “Mark lives in New York and I live in Texas and if I am having a bad day or I need some personal wisdom, he’s who I call. He knows everything. He knows what’s in my closet.”

Lewis said he and Hennig bought seven horses who are now 3-year-olds, including Gun Song who was purchased with the help of bloodstock agent Phil Hager for $400,000 from the De Meric Sales consignment at the 2023 Ocala Breeders’ March Sale of 2- Year-Olds in Training.

“The game has evolved and that’s why I reached out to Lee and said ‘Let’s do this the right way and get some good horses again.’ And he stepped up,” Hennig said.

The Black-Eyed Susan marked Gun Song’s first stakes win and ended any doubts about her stamina that arose from weakening and finishing fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), her last race, stakes debut, and first start beyond a mile.

In the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan, the Marianne Stribling-bred daughter of the Mr. Greeley mare Nicole H.was second behind fractions of :49.47 and 1:13.66 before taking charge at the top of the stretch and covering the distance in 1:51.39 as the 2-1 favorite ($6.60).

Madaket Stables and Slam Dunk Racing’s Corporealto Rosso Wine filly trained by Peter Eurton, was second. The 3-1 second choice was a neck in front of R. Larry Johnson’s Call Another Playeven Audible filly trained by Michael Trombetta.

Tuscan Gold favored in BES-Preakness double willpays

In the Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness doubles, the slight favorite in the willpays for a $2 wager was (8) Tuscan Gold with a $30 payout, followed by (3) Catching Freedom at $30.60. (9) Imagination was next at $34.20 and Kentucky Derby winner (5) Mystik Danthe favorite in the revised morning line, was fourth at $35.20.

The rest of the willpays are (1) Mugatu $708.40, (2) Uncle Heavy $204.60, (6) Seize the Gray $114.40, and (7) Just Steel $98.

Video: George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2)

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