05/04/2011 3:01PM

Churchill Downs: Rail-drawn Arienza faces no easy task in Eight Belles


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Although Arienza has come quite far in just a handful of starts in the past two months, her trainer, Dan Peitz, thought it wise to bypass the Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs and instead run her on the undercard in the Grade 3, $100,000 Eight Belles Stakes, even with likely favorite R Heat Lightning out of the Oaks. But the Eight Belles, like the Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, certainly won’t be a layup for Arienza, and her chances were compromised at the draw, when she landed the rail, with nine rivals outside her, in the seven-furlong race.

“I wanted the outside,” Peitz said at his barn on Wednesday morning. “We’ll probably have to go from the rail, because she hasn’t figured out the relaxing part of it yet, which is one of the reasons we didn’t go in the Oaks. The rail limits your options.”

Arienza, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway and the Hall of Fame mare Azeri, has shown keen ability since her March 6 debut. She won her first two starts, then finished a distant second to Joyful Victory, the likely Oaks favorite, in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn.

To prevail, Arienza will have to outrun several fillies with strong credentials.

Pomeroys Pistol found a one-turn mile at Gulfstream, and the presence of R Heat Lightning, too difficult a task in the Davona Dale, but she won the seven-furlong Forward Gal in her prior start.

Holiday Flare comes off consecutive victories, in fast times, against Florida-breds in sprints at Gulfstream Park.

“Obviously this is a step up in class,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Holiday Flare, “but she’s been pleasing us.”

Honey Chile was a distant second in the Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland to one of the nation’s elite 3-year-old fillies, Turbulent Descent. It was her first start of the year, and she has a right to improve, but her lone race on dirt was poor.