The Estate of Clarence Scharbauer Jr.'s Fiftyshadesofgold outgamed Milam through a furious stretch duel to win the 59th running of the $202,725 Eight Belles (Grade III) Presented by Twinspires.com for 3-year-old fillies by a half-length.
Trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Mike Smith, Fiftyshadesofgold added the Eight Belles to her Churchill Downs resume that also includes an eight-length victory in last year's Debutante.
Jojo Warrior and Cash Control dueled through early fractions of :22.31 and :44.77 with Smith keeping Fiftyshadesofgold in a stalking position on the outside.
On the far turn, Fiftyshadesofgold drew alongside the leaders and was soon joined by Milam and Jose Lezcano. Those two put away Cash Control in upper stretch and Milam gained a narrow advantage at the eighth pole only to have Fiftyshadesofgold rally back on the inside and complete the seven furlongs on a fast main track in 1:22.50.
The victory was worth $119,472 and increased Fiftyshadesofgold's earnings to $342,262 with a record of 6-4-1-1.
Bred in Texas, Fiftyshadesofgold is a daughter of My Golden Song out of the Hadif mare Hadif Cat.
Sent off as the favorite in the field of nine, Fiftyshadesofgold returned $6.20, $3.60 and $2.80. Milam returned $8.20, $5.60. Cash Control finished 3 ½ lengths back in third under James Graham and paid $6.20 to show.
It was another 2 ¼ lengths back to Designer Legs who finished fourth and was followed in order by Jojo Warrior, Our Amazing Rose, She's a Tiger, Mufajaah and Whomping Willow.
EIGHT BELLES QUOTES
MIKE SMITH, rider of Fiftyshadesofgold (winner) –"She did what I wanted her to do. She's comfortable on this track. That means a lot. She ran and won on this track last year and that makes a difference. I knew when I locked into that other filly (Milam) at the sixteenth pole, that I had her measured. We could have gone around again and she wasn't going to beat I sure was glad when these folks made the decision not to run her in the Kentucky Oaks and to go in this spot instead. I knew she'd be double tough going seven-eighths here. Besides, I've got another one (Ria Antonia) in the Oaks. Let's see if I can win the other half of this thing, too."
BRET CALHOUN, trainer of Fiftyshadesofgold (winner) – On choosing this race for her instead of the Kentucky Oaks: "It was the right call at the end of the day, obviously. You don't have a lot of opportunities to run in the Oaks, but at the end of the day, we wanted to win a graded stakes with this filly, and we think gave us the best chance. I was worried about them getting away from her early in the race. Mike (Smith) had her in great position. I really felt comfortable from there on. After the first sixteenth of a mile I felt comfortable. Then I saw the half-mile splits were pretty sharp, but turning back from a mile and a sixteenth, and considering she likes this track, I thought she had a big shot from there. She had to gut it out.''
JOSE LEZCANO, rider of Milam (second) – "I had to give up a little ground around the turn, but she ran great."
JAMES GRAHAM, rider of Cash Control (third) – "We had a great trip; a great stalking trip. Turning for home, she kicked on but the top two kicked on a little faster."
JEFF BONDE, trainer of She's a Tiger (seventh) – "This was just a throw out race. She got left and eliminated at the start. Then she was floated wide the whole way. Not much else I can say. I was originally intending in running her in the Acorn next but we need to see how she comes out of the race first."
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