Fiftyshadesofgold wins the 2014 Eight Belles Stakes. <br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Fiftyshadesofgold wins the 2014 Eight Belles Stakes.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Fiftyshadesofgold Shines in Eight Belles

Gutsy Fiftyshadesofgold earns first graded stakes win in Eight Belles Stakes.

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.

Fiftyshadesofgold is the first graded stakes winner out of the Hadif mare Hadif Cat, who has produced two other starters, stakes winners Sword Trick and Tastefullyxcessive.