05/01/2013 12:17PM

Churchill Downs: Eight Belles provides class test for Calistoga

Tom Keyser
Blueeyesintherein, shown winning the Instant Racing Stakes at Oaklawn, will try to improve to 4 for 4 in the Eight Belles.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Bill Mott said that as Calistoga neared her debut earlier this year, he thought she had the quality to develop into a Grade 1 sprinter, perhaps in something like the Test Stakes this summer at Saratoga. Two starts later, both wins, he’s still of that opinion.

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“She’s done nothing wrong,” Mott said at his Churchill Downs barn the other morning. “Now we’re getting to the point where we’ll really find out.”

Calistoga takes that next step on Friday, when she tries to outrace 13 rivals in a compelling edition of the Grade 3, $150,000 Eight Belles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Calistoga drew the outside post, but with an elongated run to the far turn, and her sharp speed, she should be able to secure good position.

Both her wins have been runaways, but the Eight Bellies marks Calistoga’s stakes debut, and she is meeting nine stakes winners.
Her primary rival may be Fusaichiswonderful, who was 5 for 5 in Puerto Rico and won once in two starts earlier this year at Gulfstream.

“She ran very well last time and she’s trained well since then,” said her trainer, Todd Pletcher. “She’s very well-suited to seven furlongs.”
Blueeyesintherein puts her unbeaten record on the line. She returned to win the Instant Racing on April 12 at Oaklawn after winning twice here last year.

Gold Medal Dancer rallied furiously to win at Oaklawn last time out, and also is seeking to remain undefeated.

The most accomplished filly in the field is So Many Ways, winner of the Spinaway last summer. She is back sprinting after fading in the Fair Grounds Oaks last time out.

Spring Venture won a pair of stakes last year at Woodbine. She ran poorly in her lone start on dirt, though.