Eight Belles Stakes Picks: Caramel Swirl to spice things up

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sends out our pick Caramel Swirl
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sends out our pick Caramel Swirl

The Grade II Eight Belles Stakes is Race 9 on the card and the fourth race as part of the Derby City-6 on Oaks Day this Friday at Churchill Downs. Dayoutoftheoffice is your Morning Line favorite but it is a deep field of 12. What does our in-house handicapper think about the race?

He previews the race below along with his full slate of selections for the card under the Twin Spires. For picks from across the US this Friday then check out our Picks page (linked to below) which is updated overnight with a full slate of selections from the HorseRacing.net team...

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At long last we arrive at a race which I believe should offer plenty of opportunities to find value. The main reason for that is that I’m taking a skeptical view of G1 winner Dayoutoftheoffice (#10) as she makes her 3-year-old debut following a highly productive juvenile campaign. Her 2-year-old form is really something to behold. She won the G1 Frizette and finished second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Beyer Speed Figures of 95 and 90, respectively, and the seven-furlong distance of the Eight Belles figures to hit her right between the eyes as she also won the G3 Schuylerville at six furlongs with an 83 Beyer. The vast majority of this field has, even at 3, failed to match those lofty numbers, and if Dayoutoftheoffice returns in similar form she’s obviously going to be a handful. The trouble with her, however, is that I’m sure her connections wanted to get a filly of this caliber to the G1 Kentucky Oaks and just couldn’t get her started in time. With this race as a Plan B, and likely just a prep for the G1 Acorn at Belmont, I can’t in good conscience accept her as the favorite. I’m expecting serious regression from her in this spot.

Behind Dayoutoftheoffice there are so many different ways to go, but the two I find the most compelling are Li’l Tootsie (#9) and Caramel Swirl (#12). The former finally gets back to one-turn racing after her connections seemed to catch a mild case of Oaks Fever. This filly ran OK in a pair of starts at 1 1/16 miles, including a fifth-place finish last out in the G2 Fair Grounds Oaks, but it’s apparent from watching that race that sprinting is really her game. If she can get back to the kind of effort we saw three back going six furlongs at Fair Grounds, when she blew the doors off Euphoric (#4), who has since gone on a tear, there’s no reason she can’t win this race at what should be a generous price.

I like Li’l Tootsie quite a bit, but it’s the Godolphin homebred Caramel Swirl that’s my top pick in the Eight Belles. It may seem like too big a jump to go from a maiden win to a spot like this, but this filly just oozes class and was unlucky to not break her maiden sooner as she had the misfortune of facing the likes of Malathaat and Miss Brazil early in her career. After a couple of experiments going long and running on turf, Caramel Swirl got back to what she does best in her last start and she responded by thrashing a field by 10 ¼ lengths with an 88 Beyer. That race also marked her first without blinkers, and based on that performance I believe she’s immediately ready to tackle stakes competition. At 12-1 on the morning line, she should be a sizable overlay.


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