Fiftyshadesofgold, a 10-length winner against Texas-breds in her debut at Lone Star Park, invaded Churchill Downs for Saturday night’s 113th running of the $113,400 Debutante Stakes and delivered a similar jaw-dropping performance, beating More Than Beauty by eight lengths.
The 2-year-old filly, ridden by Corey Lanerie and trained by Bret Calhoun, zipped six furlongs over a fast track in 1:10.63 for owner/breeder Clarence Scharbauer Jr. of Midland, Texas.
It was the first Churchill Downs stakes victory for the Scharbauer family’s familiar blue and white diamond silks since his late wife Dorothy and daughter Pam won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) with ’87 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba.
Fiftyshadesofgold broke alertly from post No. 10 in the field of 11 juvenile fillies – all of whom entered the race off victories. From the outside, she battled for the early lead with More Than Beauty, who raced along the rail, and Teardrop, who battled between horses. After a quarter mile in :21.37, Teardrop – a well-meant, half-sister to $1.6 million-earner Pyro – began to drop back and the top two drew clear of the rest of the field. Fiftyshadesofgold took command at the head of the stretch after a half-mile in :45.14 and easily drew away from the runner-up to win by eight lengths – the largest Debutante-winning margin since Sweet Little Mary’s 11-length romp in 1977.
“I thought it was a monster effort,” said Calhoun, who also trains impressive 2-year-old filly maiden winner Bahnah, who is slated for the $150,000 Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga on July 19. “It was very, very impressive. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She beat those horses pretty handily and I know there were some nice horses in there. To go what I thought was too fast and then keep running was very impressive.”
Fiftyshadesofgold, a gray or roan daughter of My Golden Song out of the Hadif mare Hadif Cat, paid $4.60, $3.20 and $3 as the 6-5 favorite. More Than Beauty, ridden by Calvin Borel, returned $4 and $3.80. Del Mar Holiday, under Ricardo Santana Jr., was another five lengths back in third and paid $6.60.
My Golden Song, a Grade 3-placed son of Unbridled’s Song, stands at Scharbauer’s Valor Farm near Pilot Point, Texas, where Hadif also stood. Fiftyshadesofgold’s dam, Texas-bred Hadif Cat, earned her lone victory at Lone Star Park in 2006 and has now produced three stakes winners, including Sword Trick and Tastefullyxcessive, both by Valor Farm stallion Early Flyer. Fiftyshadesofgold’s third dam is Alysbelle, a full sister to the great Alysheba.
Fiftyshadesofgold banked $66,090 to remain unbeaten in two starts. Her total earnings jumped to $77,790.
The Debutante, first staged in 1895 and one of Churchill Downs’ most storied races, was a special victory for Lanerie, whose uncle Steve Estilette unexpectedly passed away Friday while visiting the family in Louisville for two weeks from his home in Louisiana. He was 53.
“My uncle Steve would have kicked me in the butt if I wouldn’t have ridden,” Lanerie said. “I dedicated tonight to him and I felt like I had an angel on my back the last eighth of a mile.”
Bret Calhoun, trainer of Fiftyshadesofgold, winner: “I thought it was a monster effort. It was very, very impressive. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She beat those horses pretty handily and I know there were some nice horses in there. To go what I thought was too fast and then keep running was very impressive.”
Q. You have another nice 2-year-old filly in Bahnah. Will you try to keep them apart? “I would sure like to keep them apart if at all possible. They’re two really nice fillies. I would definitely like to keep them apart, but there’s different ownership so that could change things.”
Q. What’s next for Fiftyshadesofgold? “The plan right now is to stay here and ship from here, but I haven’t even looked past this race for her. I didn’t necessarily have the (Schuylerville) in mind for her because we’re taking Bahnah up there.”
Q. How cool is it to give the Scharbauers their first stakes win at Churchill Downs since Alysheba (won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1988)? “I had no idea, but I thought that might be the case because he hasn’t run a lot here since that time. It’s very special to have one for the Scharbauers in the winner’s circle for a stake at Churchill Downs.”
Corey Lanerie, rider on Fiftyshadesofgold, winner: “She ran super. She broke really sharp. I watched her first race and she came out a little slow, so I hustled her a little bit. Going down the backside, I kinda had to keep using her for position. It caught up to us in the end because she was getting a little tired, but I looked at the big screen and it looked like they were tired behind me. She’s super nice. To go in :21(.37) and keep pressing from the outside, it looks like she’s got a big future ahead of her.”
Q. You lost your uncle yesterday and so it’s obviously been a very rough day. At any point did you consider not riding tonight? “Not really. My uncle Steve would have kicked me in the butt if I wouldn’t have ridden. There’s nothing we can do and life goes on. He would want us to be happy and to live and joke and remember the good memories.”
Q. So is tonight’s win extra special? “Yes. I dedicated tonight to him and I felt like I had an angel on my back the last eighth of a mile.”