Fiftyshadesofgold, a 10-length winner against Texas-breds in her debut at Lone Star Park, invaded Churchill Downs for Saturday night’s 113th running of the $113,400 Debutante and delivered a similar jaw-dropping performance, beating More Than Beauty by eight lengths.
The 2-year-old filly, ridden by Corey Lanerie and trained by Bret Calhoun, zipped six furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.63 for owner/breeder Clarence Scharbauer Jr. of Midland, Texas.
It was the first Churchill Downs stakes victory for the Scharbauer family’s familiar blue and white diamond silks since his late wife Dorothy and daughter Pam won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) with ’87 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba.
Fiftyshadesofgold broke alertly from post No. 10 in the field of 11 juvenile fillies – all of whom entered the race off victories. From the outside, she battled for the early lead with More Than Beauty, who raced along the rail, and Teardrop, who battled between horses. After a quarter mile in :21.37, Teardrop – a well-meant, half-sister to $1.6 million-earner Pyro – began to drop back and the top two drew clear of the rest of the field. Fiftyshadesofgold took command at the head of the stretch after a half-mile in :45.14 and easily drew away from the runner-up to win by eight lengths – the largest Debutante-winning margin since Sweet Little Mary’s 11-length romp in 1977.
“I thought it was a monster effort,” said Calhoun, who also trains impressive 2-year-old filly maiden winner Bahnah, who is slated for the $150,000 Schuylerville (GIII) at Saratoga on July 19. “It was very, very impressive. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She beat those horses pretty handily and I know there were some nice horses in there. To go what I thought was too fast and then keep running was very impressive.”
Fiftyshadesofgold, a gray or roan daughter of My Golden Song out of the Hadif mare Hadif Cat, paid $4.60, $3.20 and $3 as the 6-5 favorite. More Than Beauty, ridden by Calvin Borel, returned $4 and $3.80. Del Mar Holiday, under Ricardo Santana Jr., was another five lengths back in third and paid $6.60.
Silver Valley, Yokohama Mama, Deliver, 8-5 second choice Teardrop, Medalblu, Sara Bay, Mi Perlita and Richies Sweetheart completed the order of finish.
Fiftyshadesofgold banked $66,090 to remain unbeaten in two starts. Her total earnings jumped to $77,790.
The Debutante, first staged in 1895 and one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races, was a special victory for Lanerie, whose uncle Steve Estilette unexpectedly passed away Friday while visiting the family in Louisville for two weeks from his home in Louisiana. He was 53.
“My uncle Steve would have kicked me in the butt if I wouldn’t have ridden,” Lanerie said. “I dedicated tonight to him and I felt like I had an angel on my back the last eighth of a mile.”
Bret Calhoun, trainer of Fiftyshadesofgold, winner: “I thought it was a monster effort. It was very, very impressive. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She beat those horses pretty handily and I know there were some nice horses in there. To go what I thought was too fast and then keep running was very impressive.”
Q. You have another nice 2-year-old filly in Bahnah. Will you try to keep them apart? “I would sure like to keep them apart if at all possible. They’re two really nice fillies. I would definitely like to keep them apart, but there’s different ownership so that could change things.”
Q. What’s next for Fiftyshadesofgold? “The plan right now is to stay here and ship from here, but I haven’t even looked past this race for her. I didn’t necessarily have the (Schuylerville) in mind for her because we’re taking Bahnah up there.”
Q. How cool is it to give the Scharbauers their first stakes win at Churchill Downs since Alysheba (won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1988)? “I had no idea, but I thought that might be the case because he hasn’t run a lot here since that time. It’s very special to have one for the Scharbauers in the winner’s circle for a stake at Churchill Downs.”
Corey Lanerie, rider on Fiftyshadesofgold, winner: “She ran super. She broke really sharp. I watched her first race and she came out a little slow, so I hustled her a little bit. Going down the backside, I kinda had to keep using her for position. It caught up to us in the end because she was getting a little tired, but I looked at the big screen and it looked like they were tired behind me. She’s super nice. To go in :21(.37) and keep pressing from the outside, it looks like she’s got a big future ahead of her.”
Q. You lost your uncle yesterday and so it’s obviously been a very rough day. At any point did you consider not riding tonight? “Not really. My uncle Steve would have kicked me in the butt if I wouldn’t have ridden. There’s nothing we can do and life goes on. He would want us to be happy and to live and joke and remember the good memories.”
Q. So is tonight’s win extra special? “Yes. I dedicated tonight to him and I felt like I had an angel on my back the last eighth of a mile.”
Calvin Borel, rider on More Than Beauty, runner-up: “We just got outrun. I thought my filly was for real, but we just got outrun. We hooked a nice filly.”
Scott Blasi, assistant to Steve Asmussen, trainer of Teardrop, seventh as the second betting choice, and Del Mar Holiday, third: “It was a really fast pace. We’re disappointed in Teardrop, but I know she’s a really nice filly. We’ll just back up and come again. I think she’s definitely going to be fine, but she’s got a lot to learn.
“We’re very happy with Del Mar Holiday. She ran very hard to be third.”
Rosie Napravnik, rider on Teardrop, seventh as the second betting choice: “I think this filly has still got a lot to learn. She’s a Tapit, so she’s wired tight. I still think she’s very talented. She’s just got to kind of get it together.”
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 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2014 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled continues through Sunday, June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.