Eight Belles Stakes Horse-by-Horse Analysis & Betting Grades

The Bob Baffert Kalypso draws an 'A' Grade from our turf-man
The Bob Baffert Kalypso draws an 'A' Grade from our turf-man

7F (Dirt), The Eight Belles (G2), Purse $300k, 3F 

The 66th running of the Grade II Eight Belles is a fallback race for those that could not make the Kentucky Oaks (G1) field. At 7 furlongs, it still presents a major challenge. Since it was renamed in honor of the fallen champion Eight Belles, the race is also a special moment of remembrance. Prior winners include Joint Effort, Silverinyourpocket, Game Face, Four Gifts, and more recently, Benner Island, Misa Mischief, Break Even, and Sconsin. Recently, trainer Brad Cox has nabbed 2 of the last 4 contests. He is back again this year. Who will challenge him?

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Now, let’s find out about this field… 

Kentucky Oaks 2021

#1 Make Mischief (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: M. Casse):

The partnership between owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse is a special one. Their partnership has yielded some magnificent results for the pink-clad jocks that don those distinctive silks. This entry, previously trained by Chris Englehart, comes back to Casse’s bench. He is going to take a shot with him in this spot, and it is not a poor plan, considering the back class. Tyler Gaffalione is a major addition to the squad. Should be more than a square price.

Grade: C+

 

#2 Cantata (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: S. Asmussen): 

When it comes to a long shot in this Grade II, look no further than the first of 2 Steve Asmussen entries. This one is a class jumper, and the HOF trainer is hoping that he is up to the task. It is going to be a tall order, even with Javier Castellano in the saddle. Running in OC50k is not like a “Graded” contest. This filly barely scored in her last, and that was only a 6-horse field at the Fair Grounds. Hard to see this one even being able to hit the board.  

Grade: C-

 

#3 Souper Sensational (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: M. Casse): 

Another Mark Casse entry heads to the post, and this Live Oak Plantation filly out of Curlin tried hard in the Louisiana Series for her class back in Feb-Mar. I say tried, because she finished 6th in the Rachel A. (G2), and 3rd in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Competing against the likes of Travel Column and all the others provided this one with some real tests. The cutback in distance, plus having John Velazquez back on, might assist. If you want an overlay who is getting back to what she was maybe meant to do (sprinting around 1-turn . . .), then this is your call.

Grade: B-

 

#4 Euphoric (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: B. Flint): 

Much like in this Bernie Flint entry with James Graham in the saddle . . . This filly may not have the class, but she has some assets at her disposal that could make her the “Play of the Day” on the KYO Day. She has absolutely pounded her competition at the Fair Grounds, and that frontrunning style is pretty much the key to all of it. I like her price, and her sire is hot as can be. These Frosted offspring possess a versatility for sprinting and routing that reminds me of Into Mischief. If she can shake loose, then she could get away with one. The issue is the distance. Can she extend out to 7F? Unknown . . . 

Grade: C+

 

#5 Windmill (Jky: M. Smith/Trn: J. Jones):

Trainer Larry Jones is a horseman through and through. He doesn’t have as expansive a stable as he once did, but he can still send out a nice competitive product. This filly routed through Oaklawn Park back in the early spring, and won a pair of races at the MSW, and then in a 150k “Non-G” affair. That gave Jones confidence that she could handle the jump into a 200k race. You have to understand that these types of contests would be “Graded” races anywhere else in the country. She did well in the Purple Martin with a 3rd place finish. If she can regain some of the confidence she showed before, Mike Smith has a legitimate shot to win this at a square price.

Grade: B

 

#6 Slumber Party (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: K. Breen): 

Gary and Mary West are a power couple that would sue in open court, if it meant winning a race they had lost. They believe in fairness, but are not immune to the lure of the limelight. They own a filly who wants a piece, and Kelly Breen hopes that he has done enough to get everyone involved to the starting gate on time. Last out in the Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland, this daughter of Malibu Moon missed, finishing 2nd. That was a good effort, but remember that she was a short price that day. She is going to have the opportunity to bounce back, and I fully expect that the add-on of Irad Ortiz will help to make her more than competitive. 

Grade: B

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#7 Obligatory (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: B. Mott): 

This Juddmonte homebred, trained by HOF-er Bill Mott, comes into Churchill with much to prove. She did not reach her potential last time in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and that was a disappointing finish—4th. Now, she returns with Jose Ortiz back in the saddle, and Mott has had her working well at Churchill since she arrived over a week ago. The 3rd off the cycle looks inviting and so does the cutback in distance, but it may be just too much to ask considering some of the others that are drawn in here. 

Grade: C+

 

#8 Kalypso (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: B. Baffert): 

The Bob Baffert train comes East, and this filly out of Brody’s Cause is carrying some enormous horsepower with her. She has major “Graded” experience under her belt already, and Baffert brings back Joel Rosario to ride in this spot. Her conditioner is a master when it comes to spotting, and he finds ways to make adjustments when it counts. If she is 5/1 at post time, which I seriously doubt, then it is time to bet the farm. She breaks well, and if it is a fair track, then everyone else might be looking at her taillights. Nothing like a rested sprinter who can blow and go out of Baffert’s midst.

Grade: A

 

#9 Li’l Tootsie (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: T. Amoss): 

Tom Amoss can train with the best of them, and he is trying to take a failed router back to being a sprinter. That is a good plan considering what this filly out of Tapiture was doing before she finished a distant 5th in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Amoss isn’t messing around because he has employed the services of Flavien Prat. He is a bulldog of a jockey, and knows how to mix it up with the best of them. He is going to need all his wits to get this one home first because there are some runners in here that are simply faster. Horses win races . . . not jockeys, is a mantra that comes to mind.

Grade: B-

 

#10 Dayoutoftheoffice (Jky: G. Corrales/Trn: T. Hamm): 

Here is one of the Derby Week entries that most have been waiting to see run. I am not sure exactly why trainer Tim Hamm chose to wait this long to bring his prize filly back from the winter time off. But here she is . . . This daughter of the great Into Mischief was absolutely stellar last year as she won-won-won. Then arriving at the Breeders’ Cup for the Juvenile Fillies (G1), she ran into Vequist who ended her superb run. Still, it was a big year for Hamm, who was enjoying the ride. She is back and ready to go after working out primarily in Tampa. If she can harness that kind of style that she possessed last time we saw her, she will be difficult to beat. It is going to be a slugfest with Baffert’s entry on the engine. 

Grade: A-

 

#11 Abrogate (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: S. Asmussen): 

The other Steve Asmuseen entry is the best of the pair because she won the Purple Martin 200k at Oaklawn Park back in early April. That was a commanding performance, as she rated just off the lead, and then snatched the win just before the wire. She’s got wheels to be sure, and this Outwork filly will not be one to forget. Can she best some of the prohibitive favorites? It is unclear . . . Asmussen wouldn’t bring her to Churchill if he didn’t think she had a legitimate chance to win against this tough group. He is sending his best rider out, Ricardo Santana. That should instill some confidence. Talented filly to be sure . . . 

Grade: B+

 

#12 Caramel Swirl (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: B. Mott): 

Bill Mott enters a pair in this contest, and here is the one with less class experience. What she does not have in “Graded” experience, she makes up for in clean bloodlines through Union Rags, and an impressive last out win at Keeneland in a MSW79k contest. Add jockey Luis Saez into the equation, plus a strong level of fitness, and you have an overlay if there ever was one. Mott has her headed in the proper direction. Stepping up in class is the big question mark . . . trust in Mott? Not a bad play . . .

Grade: B-

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