Eight Belles

2/23/05 gr/ro f
Unbridled’s Song – Away, by Dixieland Band

G2 winner of the Fantasy S
Runner-up in the 2008 Kentucky Derby
2008 3-year-old Female Eclipse finalist
Died in 2008 and is buried at the Kentucky Derby Museum

Eight Belles was purchased by Fox Hill Farm at the Keeneland September 2006 Yearling Sale. After her early training, she began her racing career in the fall of 2007 in a series of races at Delaware Park.

Despite thinking she had talent, it took Eight Belles three attempts to break her maiden. When she get her first win, she did so in a big way, finishing 10 lengths ahead of the second place finisher.

That impressive win, however, wasn’t indicative of how she’d finish up the year. Now racing at the Fair Grounds in Louisiana, she finished 7th, then second.

Eight Belles turned a corner in her 3-year-old campaign. On Jan. 21, 2008 at the Fair Grounds, Eight Belles blew away her allowance competition by 15 lengths, earning an impressive 100 Beyer speed figure.

She made her stakes debut on Feb. 17 in the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Her 13 ½-length victory was the largest in a stakes event in Oaklawn Park’s history. A month later, Eight Belles returned to the track at Oaklawn Park in the Honeybee Stakes where she faced her toughest competition to date in Pure Clan. Eight Belles finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Pure Clan, capturing her second straight stakes win.

On Apr. 6, Eight Belles made her final appearance at Oaklawn Park in the Fantasy Stakes (G2). She captured her third straight stakes win, crossing the finish line ¾ of a length ahead of second place finisher Alina.

Nominated to both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, Fox Hill Farm and trainer Larry Jones seriously considered running her in the Derby. Her race results and speed figures indicated that she belonged, with Big Brown seeming to be the only threat. After drawing a good post position, her connections decided to let her attempt history, so she entered the Derby gate on May 3, 2008.

Eight Belles ran a huge race, finishing second to Big Brown and well clear of her other 18 male competitors. Tragedy was within seconds of striking, however. During her gallop out, Eight Belles broke one ankle, and in trying to catch herself on her other leg, she broke that ankle as well. It was immediately known that she couldn’t recover from so severe an injury and she was euthanized on the track. Her connections and fans, including those in the nationwide audience, were overcome with shock and grief.

An outpouring followed from thousands around the world. Rick Porter established the Eight Belles Memorial Fund through The Thoroughbred Charities of America, with donations earmarked for research into injuries to racehorses and retraining of thoroughbreds for post-race careers. To date, the fund has raised over $66,000. In addition, Fox Hill Farm and its fans have raised over $20,000 to assist in the rescue of thoroughbreds through the Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, saving over 25 horses in memory of Eight Belles.

A memorial ceremony was held on September 7, 2008 in the gardens of the Kentucky Derby Museum, a plaque designating her burial spot under a magnolia tree. In addition, Churchill Downs renamed the La Troienne Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, part of the Derby undercard, in her honor. Preceding the Eight Belles Stakes on May 2, 2009, a special bell was rung eight times in memory of Eight Belles.

The following is inscribed on Eight Belles’ memorial:

She’ll live in our hearts,
The magnificent steel gray,

Who gave us her all

On the first Saturday in May

Eight Belles Race Record

YearAgeStarts1st2nd3rdEarnings
Total10531$708,650
200835121$664,000
200725121$44,650

05/03/08: 2nd, 10f Kentucky Derby (G1), CD, $400,000
04/06/08: 1st, 8.5f Fantasy S (G2), OP, $150,000
03/16/08: 1st, 8.5f Honeybee S (G3), OP, $60,000
02/17/08: 1st, 1m Martha Washington S., OP, $30,000
01/21/08: 1st, 1m40 allow, FG, $24,000
12/23/07: 2nd, 8.5f allow, FG, $8,000
11/30/07: 7th, 1m allow, FG, $250
10/30/07: 1st, 1m70 maiden, DEL, $24,000
10/15/07: 3rd, 8.5f maiden, DEL, $4,400
09/16/07: 2nd, 5.5f maiden, DEL, $8,000