Friday’s card at Pimlico is a worthy lead-up to Saturday’s Preakness (G1) festivities, with plenty of intrigue and potential value on offer.

Let’s dive right into my “horses of interest” list:

2ND Race: #7 Spanish Romance (8-1) is eligible to show quite a bit more in her seasonal reappearance, and second stateside start, for Arnaud Delacour. After hacking up on debut at Chantilly, the Rip Van Winkle filly was acquired by Team Valor International. She made it two straight over the same course and about five-furlong trip, then finished a creditable sixth in the Albany (G3), where she struck the front but faded in the sixth furlong. Spanish Romance was briefly on the classic trail at three, but her stamina limitations were exposed and she reverted to sprinting. Although her French finale was an eighth in last June’s Prix Hampton, note that she was beaten just a shade over three lengths by older males, including future Al Quoz Sprint (G1) hero The Right Man. Spanish Romance was exported the following week, but didn’t resurface until November at Laurel, breaking a tad slowly and checking in fifth. With a sharper start, she can do better with hot-riding Trevor McCarthy back aboard. Did I mention that Spanish Romance is a descendant of Irish classic-winning champion and influential matron Al Bahathri?

5TH Race, the Allaire DuPont (G3): While 6-5 morning-line favorite Terra Promessa looks very tough to beat as the controlling speed, #6 Carrumba (3-1) could be the one to use with her. The Phipps Stable homebred was mixing it up with some heavy hitters last season – Cavorting, Forever Unbridled, and Curalina – and now adds blinkers on the stretch-out for Shug McGaughey. By Bernardini and out of an El Prado half-sister to Dancing Forever, from the all-star family of Heavenly Prize, Carrumba sports a 4-2-2-0 mark at the 1 1/8-mile trip.

7TH Race, the Pimlico Special (G3): As listed in our 2017 Preakness Stakes Betting Guide, I regard #6 Shaman Ghost as a proper 4-5 favorite on the basis of his class edge over this field. Yet there are two longshots worth a look -- #9 Conquest Windycity (15-1), who’ll be forward early, and #7 Name Changer (20-1), who’ll be slightly off the pace. Conquest Windycity had shown glimmers of talent for previous trainer Mark Casse, but he’s taken another step forward now as a four-year-old. A $65,000 purchase from the Conquest dispersal at Keeneland November, the Tiznow colt (from the immediate family of Mastery) was a useful second first time out for Brendan Walsh, and improved markedly next time to dominate a Keeneland allowance. As with Preakness entrant Conquest Mo Money, Conquest Windycity is getting good for new connections, and we don’t know his ceiling yet. That latter statement is also true of Name Changer, a Richard Santulli homebred who concluded his sophomore campaign on a high note by dispatching older horses in the Richard W. Small. The son of Uncle Mo and Grade 3-placed multiple stakes scorer Cash’s Girl (a three-quarter sister to Afleet Alex) launches his 2017 season at a tough 1 3/16-mile trip, but trainer Alan Goldberg wins 20% of these comeback races.

9TH Race, the Miss Preakness (G3): This dash for three-year-old fillies could go any number of ways, so it strikes me as the right spot to look for a price. Enter #14 Deer Valley (20-1), who has the right pedigree and connections to accomplish something if she’s good enough. Bred by the star factory that is Clearsky Farms, Deer Valley is a Speightstown half-sister to Grade 1 winner Crisp, and thereby inbred 3x3 to Storm Cat. She was purchased for $340,000 at Keeneland September by Glen Hill Farm. Fifth in the same Laurel maiden in which Shimmering Aspen was third, Deer Valley opened her account in a lucrative Kentucky Downs maiden. She was evidently deemed worthy of shipping out to Santa Anita for the Surfer Girl, but retreated to eighth and headed to the sidelines. The Tom Proctor pupil reappeared with a near-miss in a Fair Grounds turf sprint to R Naja, who came right back to take Woodbine’s Star Shoot S. Deer Valley herself rolled in an off-the-turf allowance at Fair Grounds, proving her effectiveness on a sloppy track, and she just fired a bullet at Fair Hill. Florent Geroux sticks with the stalker, who will get an abundance of pace to set her up. #7 Bode’s Dream (12-1) is an obvious value play off the cutback, and a freshening, but the Todd Pletcher filly will probably get bet down from that generous line.

10TH Race, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint: Can you resist 15-1 on a son of War Front who beat an in-form Ben’s Cat at this trip in the Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup last June? Neither can I, so #6 Take Cover (15-1) is very intriguing in this spot. Another comebacker for Goldberg, like Name Changer, Take Cover figures to be in the chasing group early and hopefully kick on well enough late. I’ve got great respect for Richard’s Boy in light of his valiant fifth in the Al Quoz last out, with the only question being the shortening up to five after competing over six or so of late. He’s very effective at this distance, but he could also bump into one a bit sharper at it at the moment.

11TH Race, the Black-Eyed Susan (G2): It would be a little hyperbolic to call #1 Shimmering Aspen (9-2) Maryland’s answer to Unique Bella, but the gray dynamo has obliterated the opposition – in her case, older allowance distaffers – in similarly effortless fashion. In a race that lacks an obvious standout coming via the usual ways, Shimmering Aspen has appeal as a potentially brilliant type. If the Rodney Jenkins trainee can transfer her ability from sprints to a route, she may be uncatchable from the rail. Her dam, the multiple stakes-winning Aspenglow, was best known as a sprinter, but won over as far as nine furlongs in a minor stakes at Charles Town. And Shimmering Aspen may get help from her sire, Malibu Moon. I’m also hopeful of an improved effort from #4 Full House (12-1), who’s likely better than she was able to show in her past two stakes attempts at Aqueduct for Jimmy Jerkens.

Still to come are Saturday’s horses of interest – so for now, good luck on Friday!

Shimmering Aspen photo courtesy Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue