The daughter of Proud Citizen was one of two fillies trained by Larry Jones that were previously under consideration for both the May 3 Derby and the May 2 Oaks.
Both fillies worked at Churchill Downs Sunday morning, with Eight Belles going five-eighths of a mile in :58 1/5 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:12. Proud Spell got the same distance in :58 2/5, with a gallop out time of 1:12 4/5.
With the decision by owner Jones to run his filly in the Oaks, trainer Jones said he was leaning much stronger to pointing Fox Hill Farm’s Eight Belles toward the Derby. Jockey Gabriel Saez was aboard both fillies.
“I think Proud Spell is an Oaks horse,” owner Jones said, noting that his decision will lessen the pressure on his trainer with regard to the other filly. “Larry Jones deserves to win the Oaks and Larry Jones deserves to win the Derby, and you can’t do both unless they are spread out.”
“We can’t win them both if you don’t have horses in each,” trainer Jones said. “We feel good about both spots. Both worked well and both came back well.”
Jones said one reason he believes the filly Eight Belles has a better chance at the Derby this year than in other years is due to the way this year’s race is shaping up. “We like to convince ourselves that the boys are boys are vulnerable this time because everybody is trying to do things in a way that doesn’t win the Derby… There’s reason to think that every horse that goes out there has a reason to get beat, including ourselves. Now they’re telling us no filly has ever won the Derby without beating the boys first and the only time she’s ever beat boys is in the morning, beating up on the other boys in my barn.”
Jones said is also confident in Eight Belles’ ability against males because of her large size. Despite the decision to point Eight Belles mainly toward the Derby, Jones said she would be entered in both races and could still run in the Oaks if she receives a poor post position in the Derby.
A daughter of Unbridled's Song, Eight Belles has won five of nine starts, including the grade II Fantasy Stakes, and earned $308,650.
In addition to winning the Fair Grounds Oaks, Proud Spell finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and third in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I). She has won four of seven starts and earned $938,770.