02/15/2008 12:00AM

Eight Belles comes off big race


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Eight Belles was a 15-length allowance winner in her most recent start, and a repeat of anything close to that performance Sunday in the second division of the $50,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park figures to make her a stakes winner in her first attempt. The one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies was split in two divisions after 17 horses were entered in what is the first local prep for the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy on April 6.

Sky Mom, winner of the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, runs in the first division against up-and-comers Closetoaten and Holistic.

Eight Belles also looks like a filly with a very bright future.

"Hopefully, we're here for the Fantasy," said Larry Jones, who trains Eight Belles for Fox Hill Farms.

But the first order of business, Jones said, comes in the Martha Washington. Eight Belles ran a big one at Fair Grounds on Jan. 21, when, in her sixth start, she stalked the pace then drew out to a 15-length win in a first-level allowance. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in the one mile and 40-yard race.

"She sure looks like she came out of the race very well, and has been training great ever since," Jones said. "I don't know what made that big a difference in her previous races to that last one, except the fact that she's just finally learning what she's doing."

Eight Belles is a tall filly and her coordination is now coming together, Jones said. She ate up ground during a routine gallop here Friday.

"She should be able to go forever, it looks like," Jones said. "She covers a lot of ground with each stride and acts like tired is not on her agenda."

Eight Belles, a $375,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland, is by Unbridled's Song. Her dam, Away, was a stakes winner of $277,550. Eight Belles will break from post 4 under Terry Thompson on Saturday.

"She will probably be relatively close," Jones said. "She definitely does not have to have the lead. When she gets in her rhythm, and if she's in her stride and she is close, then that's what we like to see."

Superior Storm is the one to catch. She won her second straight stakes last out when she wired the field in the $125,000 Premier Starlet at Delta Downs on Feb. 2. Trainer Rick Jackson has given the mount to Eddie Razo Jr.