Fiftyshadesofgold delivered a jaw-dropping performance in defeating More Than Beauty by eight lengths in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs Saturday night.
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. A 10-length winner against Texas-breds in her debut at Lone Star Park, Fiftyshadesofgold is owned and bred by Clarence Scharbauer Jr. of 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.
Silver Valley, Yokohama Mama, Deliver, 8-5 second choice Teardrop, Medalblu, Sara Bay, Mi Perlita and Richies Sweetheart completed the order of finish.
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.”