Eight Belles, Edgewood could attract Kentucky Oaks nominees

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Jen Caldwell

April 20th, 2018

With all the attention focused on the Kentucky Oaks (G1), it’s easy to overlook the undercard races on the first Friday in May at Churchill Downs.

There are five graded events scheduled besides the Kentucky Oaks on May 4, and two of them are restricted to three-year-old fillies – the $200,000 Eight Belles Stakes (G2) at seven furlongs and the $200,000 Edgewood Stakes (G3) sending runners 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

A number of fillies listed on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard are also nominated to the Eight Belles, and a few have even made it onto the nomination list for the Edgewood.

Perhaps the most prominent is AMY’S CHALLENGE, whose trainer has indicated the dark bay lass is more likely to start in the Eight Belles than the Kentucky Oaks. One day after finishing third in the April 13 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park, trainer Mac Robertson texted that Amy’s Challenge was “80 percent” for the Eight Belles and “20 percent” for the Oaks.

That’s pretty definitive, enough so that the Artie Schiller lass has already been struck through on the Oaks Leaderboard. It’s also a good decision considering she’s unbeaten in three races, two of which were against the boys, under a mile. Amy’s Challenge didn’t disgrace herself in any way, shape or form when runner-up in the Honeybee Stakes (G3) and third in the Fantasy, but she could return to the winner’s circle while cutting back in distance in the Eight Belles.

Another former Oaks hopeful to look out for in the Eight Belles is SPECTATOR. That chestnut daughter of Jimmy Creed romped in the Sorrento Stakes (G2) and finished third in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1) last year while staying under a mile. She returned off a six-month hiatus to take a 6 1/2-furlong allowance/optional claimer on March 18 and then stretched out for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks (G1) most recently on April 7.

Though she finished second in that contest, worth 40 points and a guaranteed spot in the Oaks, the Kentucky-bred lass appears to be bypassing the Run for the Lilies in favor of the Eight Belles.

Other candidates for the Eight Belles from the Oaks Leaderboard are HEAVENHASMYNIKKI, C. S. INCHARGE and KELLY’S HUMOR. Those three are all sitting on the outside looking into the 14-filly Oaks field – Heavenhasmynikki in 15th, C. S. Incharge in 16th and Kelly’s Humor in 17th.

Heavenhasmynikki finished fourth in the Forward Gal Stakes (G3) and then posted a third-place run in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2) in her prior two efforts, which took place at Gulfstream Park in February and March. C. S. Incharge captured the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs before running off-the-board in Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes (G1) on April 7. Kelly’s Humor, runner-up in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) last fall at Churchill Downs, appears a good fit for the Eight Belles following a nice second in the Beaumont Stakes (G3) on April 8 at Keeneland to begin her sophomore campaign.

The Edgewood is a bit more complicated in that it takes place on the turf. There are still a few Oaks nominees who could wind up in the gate for the contest, though.

GO NONI GO earned 20 points for her two-length victory in the Bourbonette Oaks (G2) at Turfway Park last out on March 17, enough to squeak past Red Ruby who currently sits in 14th on the Leaderboard, and make the Oaks field. However, the Get Stormy filly’s only two starts on dirt resulted in well-beaten losses and her turf record of 6-2-1-1 appears much more amicable to the winner’s circle.

CASH OUT also shows two starts on dirt, both losses, while breaking her maiden and recording a third-place run in the Jessamine Stakes (G3) on the greens at Kentucky Downs and Keeneland, respectively. The Street Cry filly, who garnered two Oaks points for a third-place effort in the Golden Rod last season, returned February 3 to post a subpar sixth in the Sweetest Chant Stakes (G3) over Gulfstream Park’s turf, but showed much more when rallying from last-of-11 in the grassy Florida Oaks (G3) most recently to be fourth on the Tampa Bay Downs wire.