Owned by Fox Hill Farms, the remarkable Eight Belles may have stamped herself as the favorite for the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and also given trainer Larry Jones continued thoughts on taking on the boys in the May 3
Out of the Dixieland band mare Away, Eight Belles entered the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy off three straight scores, all in convincing fashion. Her last victory came in the March 16 Honeybee (gr. III) at Oaklawn, when she won under wraps while defeating Pure Clan.
Pure Clan was supposed to have improved off her second-place performance in the Honeybee, since she entered that contest having been idle for three and a half months. But it was not Pure Clan that Eight Belles had to worry about in the Fantasy. Instead, the biggest challenge came from pacesetter Alina.
With Ramon Dominguez aboard, Eight Belles hopped at the start and fell back to last after a quarter-mile in the four-horse field. She began to regain her form as she entered the early part of the far turn, advancing three-wide.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Alina had the lead from the start, posting modest opening fractions of :24.36 and :48.12 under Luis Quinonez. Pure Clan, with Julien Leparoux aboard, was closest to the leader through the backstretch, while French Kiss was never in contention.
Eight Belles nearly drew even at the three-quarters pole, but Alina responded emphatically and took a two-length advantage as she hit the top of the stretch. Unchallenged in her last three efforts, Eight Belles had a dogfight in the final furlong, but was finally able to pry the lead away from Alina in late stretch and was all out for the victory.
Eight Belles hit the wire in 1:43.06 on a fast main track. Pure Clan was another half-length back in third.
Going off as the 1-2 favorite, Eight Belles paid $3 and $2.20. The exacta (3-4) was worth $10.20. There was no show or trifecta wagering.
Eight Belles won for the fifth time in nine starts and increased her earnings to $308,650. She was bred in