Fiftyshadesofgold Takes the Eight Belles

Eight Belles: Fiftyshadesofgold digs deep

By Jay Privman, Daily Racing Form

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Fiftyshadesofgold was under consideration for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, but her connections decided to take the conservative route with her, and it paid off when she stubbornly held on to win the seven-furlong Eight Belles Stakes on the Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs.

Barbara D. Livingston
Fiftyshadesofgold (right) outduels Milam to win the Eight Belles.

The Grade 2, $202,725 Eight Belles, for 3-year-old fillies, marked the first start of the year for She’s a Tiger, the champion 2-year-old filly of last year, but she finished seventh after breaking poorly.

“She didn’t break at all. It was over in the first jump,” said her rider, Gary Stevens.

Fiftyshadesofgold, by contrast, had an ideal trip. She sat third behind leaders Jojo Warrior and Cash Control, wrested the lead from those two passing the furlong pole, then was fully extended to stave off Milam to win by a half-length.

Cash Control faded to third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Milam, with Designer Legs finishing fourth.

Fiftyshadesofgold ($6.20), the favorite, completed seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:22.50. She has now won four times in six starts, with all of those wins in sprints. In her lone try around two turns, she was a distant second to Untapable in the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 29.

The presence of Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks was one of the reasons Fiftyshadesofgold turned back to a sprint for the Eight Belles instead of trying to stretch out to 1 1/8 miles. It could not have worked out better for jockey Mike Smith, who would have had to choose between Fiftyshadesofgold and Ria Antonia for the Oaks.

“Obviously I’m happy with the decision to run here,” Smith said. “They’re both nice fillies. This gives me a chance to win both races.”

Fiftyshadesofgold, a daughter of My Golden Song, was bred by Clarence Scharbauer Jr. and is owned by his estate. She is trained by Bret Calhoun, who said getting Fiftyshadesofgold a graded stakes win was worth bowing out of the Grade 1 Oaks.

“We got a Grade 2. We didn’t know what would happen in the Oaks,” Calhoun said. “We thought about it, but there was the question of the mile and an eighth.”