Fiftyshadesofgold, the winner of the $200,725 Eight Belles Presented by TwinSpires.com (Grade III) on Kentucky Oaks Day, has been made the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field of 10 3-year-old fillies entered in Saturday’s $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies highlights Saturday’s 10-race card. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. (all times Eastern), the first race is 12:45 p.m. and the Dogwood goes as Race 9 at approximately 4:55 p.m. Following the final race at 5:27 p.m., Churchill Downs will simulcast Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome’s return to action in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GII) at Parx. The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds will be shown on the Big Board and other TV monitors at approximately 5:40 p.m.
The 39th running of the Dogwood features a rematch between Douglas Scharbauer Jr.’s half-length Eight Belles champ Fiftyshadesofgold and Joseph Sutton’s runner-up Milam. The two fillies thrilled 113,071 Oaks Day guests with a furious stretch duel. Milam gained a narrow advantage at the eighth pole only to have Fiftyshadesofgold rally back on the inside to win the seven-furlong race in 1:22.50.
In two subsequent races in New York, Fiftyshadesofgold finished fourth in the $750,000 Acorn (GI) on the Belmont Stakes undercard and $500,000 Test (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 2. Trainer Bret Calhoun has suggested that an inside draw may have led to the gray/roan filly’s fourth-place finish in the Test where she was only beaten a length by winner Sweet Reason.
“Her last race at Saratoga I thought was a great effort for her,” said Calhoun, who’ll begin the week needing two victories to reach 100 career wins at Churchill Downs. “Unfortunately, we drew the inside post and she took all the pressure early and was beaten a length. I really believe, not to take anything away from the winner, but with a better draw, in an outside post I really believe she would have a much bigger chance of winning that race.”
Fiftyshadesofgold’s string of unfortunate inside draws continued for Saturday’s Dogwood. The Texas-bred daughter of My Golden Song, who also won the $113,400 Debutante at Churchill Downs in 2013, is scheduled to break from post two under veteran rider Robby Albarado.
“Obviously she loves it here and has run some good races here at Churchill,” Calhoun said. “We’d love to get a good race in her here and just keep moving forward.”
Overall, Fiftyshadesofgold has won four of her eight starts and $417,262, which is more than twice the amount of money than any of her rivals.
The complete Dogwood field from the rail out (with jockeys, trainers and Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds): Canterbury Park first-level allowance winner Platinum Lady (Marcelino Pedroza, Eric Heitzmann, 15-1); Fiftyshadesofgold (Albarado, Calhoun, 2-1); 2013 Golden Rod (GII) runner-up Bird Maker (Shaun Bridgmohan, Ian Wilkes, 6-1); Milam (Corey Lanerie, Eddie Kenneally, 7-2); Kiss to Remember (Julien Leparoux, Tom Amoss, 8-1); Arlington Park first-level allowance winner Enjoy the Family (Alan Garcia, Tom Proctor, 15-1); Ashland (GI) third Thank You Marylou (Miguel Mena, Mike Maker, 4-1); Henny Jenney (Leandro Goncalves, Bill Connelly, 15-1), winner of the $100,200 Inaugural at Presque Isle Downs; Honey’s Ryan (Victor Lebron, Ben Delong, 30-1); and Mizzen Miss (Jesus Castanon, Bernie Flint, 15-1), a winner of three straight races at five furlongs on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
The field is expected to lose at least two entrants. Front-runners Kiss to Remember, winner of the $58,800 Battle of New Orleans at Fair Grounds, and $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial champ Honey’s Ryan were cross-entered for Saturday night’s $300,000 Charles Town Oaks (GIII), and their connections intend to run there.
The Kenneally-trained Milam, a three-time winner of $157,676 in eight starts including an eight-length romp in the $65,000 Pica Slew at Calder this winter, returns after an 83-day rest following a third in the $150,000 Victory Ride (GIII) at Belmont Park.
“The race came up tough; it’s a solid, deep race,” Kenneally said. “Milam’s doing really well; she hasn’t run in a little while but she’s worked over the Churchill track a couple of times this month and she’s ready to run. Fiftyshadesofgold is one of the horses to beat. She’s a tough horse but we’re doing as well as we possibly can, so we’ll see. I think it’ll be a close race for sure.”
‘PIGSKINS AND PONIES’ WITH COLLEGE FOOTBALL, DRINK SPECIALS ADDED TO FINAL TWO SATURDAYS
In addition to the Dogwood, which is named for the hardy, blooming tree that adds beauty to the Kentucky landscape, Churchill Downs will host “Pigskins and Ponies” on Saturday. Last week’s Football Watch Party was popular with race-goers so track officials will bring it back for the final two Saturdays of the meet.
An ACC doubleheader – Georgia Tech at Virginia (12 p.m.) and Louisville at Conference USA’s Florida International (3:30 p.m.) – will be shown uninterrupted with volume on the giant 16’ x 20’ Plaza video screen. Also, there’ll be drink specials in the Plaza all day ($2 Bud/Bud Light, $3 Stella Artois, $1 Pepsi products and bottled water), and the Plaza grill will be cooking up some tasty fare.
College students with a current student ID will be admitted free of charge on Saturday. Paid general admission is $3.
The same event will return Saturday, Sept. 27 for the Vanderbilt at Kentucky (12 p.m.) and Wake Forest at U of L (3:30 p.m.) games.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on May 2, 2015. Churchill Downs’ September Meet is scheduled for Sept. 5-28 and its Fall Meet will run from Oct. 26-Nov. 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record-tying eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.