05/06/2011 2:59PM

Eight Belles: Victoria’s Wildcat takes advantage of hot pace

Victoria's Wildcat closes fast to win the Grade 3 Eight Belles Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths.
Victoria's Wildcat

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Bob Hess Jr., the trainer of Victoria’s Wildcat, may have to go into the movie business, because the result he fashioned for his filly proved prophetic Friday, when Victoria’s Wildcat, the beneficiary of a hot pace duel, came storming down the center of the track to take the Grade 3, $100,000 Eight Belles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.

“We couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Hess said on the racetrack immediately after the race while congratulating co-owners Bob and Victoria Bayer, for whom the filly is named.

Victoria’s Wildcat ($15.20), under Kent Desormeaux, ran down a stubborn Home Sweet Aspen in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Home Sweet Aspen, who was part of a torrid pace, held on bravely for second, a nose in front of Honey Chile.
Victoria’s Wildcat completed seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:23.03. The win was her third in a row and her second at Churchill Downs, where she won last fall.

“She loves this racetrack,” said Hess, a former mainstay in Southern California who will have horses in New York this year after keeping much of his string in Florida this winter. “We plan on staying here.”

Home Sweet Aspen emerged with the lead after vying with Holiday Flare and Mysterious Chimes through fractions of 22.02 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 44.57 for a half-mile. Those rivals faded, but Home Sweet Aspen kept fighting.

Arienza, the daughter of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, was in a perfect spot in fourth, on the rail and behind the leaders, for the first half-mile, but she went in reverse and finished eighth in the 10-horse field as the 5-2 favorite.

“She broke clean, like she usually does, and she went along fine for the first half-mile, but I found myself getting into her earlier than I wanted, and the last part, she was very tired,” said Ramon Dominguez, who rode Arienza.