04/30/2014 11:21AM

She's a Tiger set for 2014 debut in Eight Belles

Barbara D. Livingston
She's a Tiger, training last weekend at Churchill Downs, will make her first start since last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in Friday's Eight Belles.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Exactly six months after her most recent start, She’s a Tiger, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly, returns to action Friday at Churchill Downs in the Grade 3, $175,000 Eight Belles Stakes, but the champ’s crown will rest uneasy, for she has numerous top-flight challengers.

The seven-furlong Eight Belles came up quite strong, being positioned five weeks out from the one-mile Acorn Stakes, a Grade 1 race now worth $750,000 and part of the enriched Belmont Stakes card June 7. Horses like She’s a Tiger, an accomplished stakes winner, and Our Amazing Rose, unbeaten and making her stakes debut, are hoping to use the Eight Belles as a stepping-stone to the Acorn.

[DRF Live: Get live reports and handicapping insights from Churchill Downs on Friday]

First things first, though. She’s a Tiger needs to show that she is back as good as she left. She was last seen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, in which she finished first but was disqualified for interference.

“We didn’t want to rush her back,” Allen Aldrich, one of her owners and a keen student of the game, said this week at Churchill Downs. “The goal is the Acorn. We looked at several preps all over the country, but this fit the schedule best.”

Our Amazing Rose won her debut at Saratoga in July, then underwent surgery for colic soon thereafter. She returned March 17 and won again.

“In both her races, she’s shown a lot of quality,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. To get to the Acorn, “we need her to run well to continue in that direction,” he said.

Fiftyshadesofgold, the Debutante Stakes winner here last June, turns back to a sprint after running second in the Fair Grounds Oaks to Untapable, the favorite in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.

Jojo Warrior, an unlucky loser at Oaklawn in her comeback April 12, and Whomping Willow, an intriguing turnback play, are other prominent contenders in the field of 10 3-year-old fillies.