In the $100,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) March 16 at Oaklawn Park, the streaking 3-year-old filly proved she could handle graded stakes competition, as she scored by 1 1/4 lengths after coasting to the wire with ease under a confident Ramon Dominguez. She defeated five rivals.
In a match-up that was billed as a battle between budding superstars Eight Belles and Pure Clan, at the end there was little doubt which filly was better. Although the final margin would indicate that it was a relatively close contest, Dominguez never had to ask Eight Belles after opening up a clear lead in the stretch, as he looked over his shoulder several times without ever going to the stick.
Pure Clan entered the Honeybee undefeated in four starts, but was unraced since Nov. 24, when she won the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) by two lengths at Churchill Downs. The Pure Prize filly rallied willingly down the stretch in her 3-year-old debut, finishing 2 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Kadira.
Eight Belles’ time of 1:43.91 in the 1 1/16-mile event was just .03 seconds off Sierra Sunset’s winning time in the March 15 Rebel.
“She’s a very talented filly and so is Proud Spell,” said trainer Larry Jones, who may have the top two 3-year-old fillies entering the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). “We’re very blessed. Both of them ran the same or better times than the boys; Proud Spell was faster than Pyro in Louisiana.
Carl Pollard’s Kadira came out sprinting to get the early lead from the inside post. The Kafwain filly was unchallenged through opening fractions of :24.31 and :48.72. Salomea was the pace-stalker, while Cozy Mesa and Eight Belles were content to race alongside in the next group.
As they entered the final turn, Eight Belles used the three-spot to challenge Kadira, and took the lead by 2 1/2 lengths entering the top of the lane. Six furlongs was run in 1:13.32.
Eight Belles had more to give in upper stretch and easily extended her lead. As the leader passed the sixteenth-pole, Pure Clan was charging strongly from the outside, but Dominguez never flinched in bringing his talented filly to the wire.
“Things worked out well today,” said Jones, who added Eight Belles would make her final Oaks prep in the April 6 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn. “Ramon just sat patiently on her and tried to slow it down. He didn’t have to ask her. I think he switched to his left hand and just threatened her with (the whip) a bit, but that was it. He checked back to make sure he was OK. He didn’t want to use any more than he had to.”
Eight Belles is out of the Dixieland Band mare Away. The gray/roan filly was bred in Kentucky by Robert Clay and Serengeti Stable. A $375,000 purchase at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale, she is owned by Fox Hill Farms.
Going off as the 3-5 favorite, Eight Belles paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.20. The exacta (6-4) was worth $5.80.