With a heart the size of the state where she was bred, Fiftyshadesofgold nailed down her first graded stakes win when the Texas-bred held off a determined Milam to register a half-length victory in the $200,725 Eight Belles Stakes (gr. III) May 2 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Racing for the estate of her breeder Clarence Scharbauer Jr., the daughter of My Golden Song had been considered for a start in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) by her trainer Bret Calhoun after finishing a well-beaten second to Untapable in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II). Ultimately the connections opted for the seven-furlong Eight Belles for 3-year-old fillies, in which Fiftyshadesofgold went off as the 2-1 favorite in a field of nine.
"It was the right call at the end of the day," said Calhoun, who earlier in the day saddled Marchman to a victory in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (gr. III). "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 this gave us the best chance."
Shadowing the early leaders through the turn as Jojo Warrior led 23-1 longshot Cash Control through a swift quarter-mile in :22.31 and a half-mile in :44.77, Fiftyshadesofgold and Mike Smith took the lead in early stretch while racing five wide. In the long drive to the wire, she had enough to hold off a stretch run from Milam to her outside to secure the victory.
"I knew when I locked into that other filly (Milam) at the sixteenth pole, that I had her measured," Smith said after Fiftyshadesofgold completed seven furlongs in 1:22.50 on a fast track. "We could have gone around again and she wan't going to beat us."
Joe Sutton's stakes winner Milam, by Street Sense , earned her first graded stakes placing. Richard and Bertram Klein's Cash Control, by Pioneerof the Nile , held third to secure her first stakes placing.
Fiftyshadesofgold returned $6.20 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.80 to show while Milam returned $8.20 to place and $5.60 to show. Cash Control paid $6.20 to show.
Second-choice She's a Tiger, the 2-year-old filly champion last year making her first start since being disqualified from first to second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, had a difficult trip. She broke tardily from her far outside post, raced wide early, and did not threaten while finishing sixth.