Trainer Larry Jones said it is still up in the air whether his filly Eight Belles will challenge the boys in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) or if she will battle the fillies the day before in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
“That’s a day-to-day thing,” Jones said April 16 of the decision on running Eight Belles in the Run for the Roses. “No decision has been made.”
Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm, which campaigns the 3-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song, nominated her to both the Derby and Oaks, and if circumstances allow he plans to enter her in both races.
Eight Belles, bred in Kentucky by Robert Clay and Serengeti Stable, is out of the Dixieland Band mare Away. She has won her last four starts by a combined margin of 30½ lengths, including her most recent score April 6 in the Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park.
Eight Belles currently has graded stakes earnings of $308,650, which places her among the top 20 horses on the Kentucky Derby graded-earnings list, which determines the horses in the Derby starting gate.
Jones, who returned to Keeneland April 16 after ending the Oaklawn Park season, said he galloped Eight Belles and his other Oaks contender, Proud Spell, 1½ miles April 16. “It was my first day on them since their last races, and they seem to have come out of those races very good," he said.
Plans call for Jones to work Eight Belles and Proud Spell at the beginning of next week, possibly April 20, at Keeneland, and have them complete their final works at Churchill Downs.
Proud Spell, owned and bred by Brereton Jones, has compiled a record of 4-2-1 from seven starts for earnings of $938,770. She won the grade II Matron last year and defeated 2007 2-year-old filly champion Indian Blessing in the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II). Most recently, the daughter of Proud Citizen out of the Langfuhr mare Pacific Spell finished third in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I).
In other Kentucky Oaks news, trainer Bobby Frankel said grade I winner Country Star remains on target for the Oaks. The daughter of Empire Maker out of the grade I-winning Metfield mare Rings a Chime finished fifth in the Ashland in her seasonal debut. Rings a Chime won the Ashland en route to finishing second, behind Secret Status, in the 2000 Oaks.
The Kentucky Oaks will mark the first start on the dirt for Robert and Janice McNair’s Stonerside Stable homebred. She made her first start, finishing second, on the turf at Belmont. She then won the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) on Polytrack at Keeneland before ending her juvenile career with a win on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park in the Starlet Stakes (gr. I).
In addition to Eight Belles, Proud Spell, and Country Star, Kentucky Oaks candidates Little Belle, winner of the Ashland, and Golden Doc A are undergoing final Oaks preparations at Keeneland.