By Kelsey Riley
Avalon Farms’ Buckleupbuttercup, never off the board in six previous starts, earned her first stakes victory in her first attempt when taking the $110,700 Eight Belles Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) over a sloppy Churchill Downs track May 1.
Breaking from the inside post in the test of 3-year-old fillies, Buckleupbuttercup settled in fifth early behind a pace battle among Decelerator, Visavis, and 3-5 favorite Hot Dixie Chick. They ticked off opening fractions of :23.00 and :45.37.
Racing off the rail, the winning 3-year-old daughter of Najran–Golden Borders, by Conquistador Cielo, commenced a rally rounding the turn, moving four wide at the quarter pole to confront the leading trio. Under strong right-handed urging from jockey Julien Leparoux, Buckleupbuttercup gained the lead in early stretch, widening through the lane to take the 7 1/2-furlong test by 6 1/4 lengths. The winning time was 1:29.49 over the sealed track.
“Before the race everybody, looking at paper, you wouldn’t pick her," Leparoux said. "But that’s horse racing, you never know. She loved it (the sloppy surface)."
Visavis, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, finished second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Hot Dixie Chick and Robby Albarado. Bell's Shoes finished fourth, followed by Sister Resistor, Decelerator and Kantstopdancin.
A homebred for John Wieczorek’s Avalon Farms, Buckleupbuttercup is trained by Eddie Kenneally. Prior to the Eight Belles, Buckleupbuttercup was second in a Keeneland allowance race April 3. The gray or roan filly now owns a line of 4-2-1 from seven lifetime starts and is proving to be a dirt specialist, with all four of her wins coming over that surface. She earned $67,261 to more than double her career bankroll to $118,621.
“She’s a very confident filly who shows up every time," Kenneally said. "I knew she would like the slop and there was a lot of pace in the race. Julien (Leparoux) was patient.
“She gained some confidence with racing and has become very professional. She’s 4-for-4 on dirt, so it looks like she’ll stay on dirt.”
The winner paid $17.80, $6.80, and $3.60. Visavis returned $6 and $3.40 and Hot Dixie Chick, was $2.20 to show. The 1-7 exacta was worth $86.80, and the trifecta of 1-7-2 paid $201.20.
“She took a little bump coming away from there but that didn’t have much affect on anything," Albarado said of the favorite. "She tried; she fired it in when I asked her. She just wasn’t good enough today.”