Victoria's Wildcat closed with a rush on the outside to take the $118,800 Eight Belles Stakes (gr. III) May 6 at Churchill Downs. Sent off at odds of 6-1, she was competing for the first time in an added-money event and left no doubt that she belonged with her 2 ¼-length triumph (VIDEO).
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux and trained by Bob Hess Jr., Victoria’s Wildcat covered seven furlongs over a fast main track in 1:23.03 while winning for the third consecutive time.
"The first 100 yards out of the (starting) gate, I got hazed," Desormeaux said. "She was having trouble switching her leads and she fell back behind them. But she got it going and in the end it unfolded just like I'd hoped. It helps when you've got the horse to do it."
The victory improved Victoria’s Wildcat’s career record to three wins in seven races. She didn’t break her maiden until her fifth outing, capturing a six-furlong allowance at Churchill Downs last November by two lengths. In her race this year prior to the Eight Belles, she defeated Sleepless Dixie by a nose in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Gulfstream Park March 19.
"This is what we always thought we had and it has finally all come together," Hess said. "She bruised her foot in January. We thought she hurt herself (badly), but it was just a bruise and an abscess. We lost some time with in January with her. She is going to be a neat filly the rest of the year and next year. Today, we were fast enough to get right on through."
Home Sweet Aspen, with Joel Rosario aboard, set the early pace in the Eight Belles, posting swift fractions of :22.02 and :44.57 while skimming along the rail. After fighting off Formal Plan early, she was challenged by Honey Chile and her rider, Jose Lezcano, and they were battling in the stretch when Victoria’s Wildcat came charging. The winner rallied from last in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies, moving up quickly after making a bold three-wide move late on the turn and swerving wide while looking for running room in the stretch.
Home Sweet Aspen finished second, only a nose in front of a gritty Honey Chile. Angelica Zapata was fourth.
Favored Arienza finished eighth after fading from fourth along the inside.
Bred in Kentucky by Marvin Little Jr., Victoria’s Wildcat is owned by Bob and Victoria Bayer and John Metcalf. The Bayers purchased her for $20,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling auction.
Victoria’s Wildcat, who is out of the Woodman mare Flaming Mirage, paid her backers $15.20, $6.20, and $4.40. Home Sweet Aspen returned $6 and $4 while Honey Chile paid $6.60.
"This is like a case of brotherly love," said Desourmeaux, a member of racing's Hall of Fame who has teamed with Hess for many wins in Southern California. "Bob has been putting me on horses since 1990. It sure is good to win one for him."