Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eight Belles - A Magnificent Lady, we will never forget you!

I have a story about Eight Belles that I want to tell. The story begins late on Jan 21st, I came home and looked at the news the sports reporter talked about Eight Belles and Larry Jones, she had just won an allowance race by 15 lengths. I looked at my wife and said "she won an allowance race like that". I wonder what that's about, so I did some research and found out about her pedigree, and what possibly could be with that type of raw talent. I went to work the next day and I told a friend of mine that we had ourselves a horse that needed to be on our Oaks radar. The worry I had was where she would go next, the possibilities were Fairgrounds or Oaklawn, which is in my hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Well as luck and good horse sense would have it Jones decided to split his two best fillies up and send 1 to Oaklawn and Proud Spell he left at fair grounds. Eight Belles next race was on my radar, I knew I wanted to watch up close and in person so I made the trek back home to watch her run in the Second Division of the Martha Washington Stakes, this was a Sunday and she had the day all to her own to impress and what an impression she made, as I watched her run from mid pack and make her move on the turn I thought to myself, will I see that same turn of foot or is that a 1 time fluke, and her turn of foot was so explosive that the first thing I said is they need to change jockeys because Terry Thompson should not have been asking her for run at the end, I was so shocked by the video when i got home that I apologized to Mr. Thompson the next time I was at Oaklawn, he never really even shook the reins at her, and she put 10 lengths on the field in about 4 jumps. The next race I went and saw in person was the HoneyBee on March 16th, and Ramon Dominguez was brought in to ride Eight Belles, they wanted a East Coast rider who could deal with the pressure of the big ones, because she was becoming a monster, but I knew her challenge was going to be much stiffer as she was dealing with Pure Clan an undefeated filly that closed like a freight train and before you know it she's 4 lengths out front and Dominguez is gearing her down and conserving energy for the next race with a hand ride, that is when I knew that she was legit.
I thought to myself, I'm sure Mr. Porter and Mr. Jones thought wow what are we really looking at here in this filly. The Fantasy was a race where she had to dig down and find a way to gut out a victory as Steve Asmussen's Alina made a bold move and fought gamely only to lose to Eight Belles by 3/4 length. Then came the Derby, which basically broke my heart. See sometimes we get too close to horses and we regret becoming so emotionally involved, but normally that's from a far, not a great deal of people had the opportunity to watch her run in person and see what an amazing presence she had on the track. She knew she was special and she will go down in history as my favorite filly, I would have loved to see what she developed into later in the year and possibly on into her 4 year old campaign. She is and always will be a true champion. We all Miss you Eight Belles!!!!!!!!!!


Cindy Brooks-Weaver said...

AAF, Thank you for your personal tribute to Eight Belles. I was obsessed with her from the time she shipped to Oaklawn until......  What a tragedy. I still believe Mr. Porter and Mr. Jones made the right decision and I don't think anyone (with an informed opinion) can honestly say she didn't belong in the field. She certainly proved her ability and I can't even begin to imagine what she would have done had her life not come to such an abrupt end. She will forever be remembered by the masses for that one tragic moment, yet, for those of us "in the know" she was so much more. Go For Wand, Ruffian, Eight Belles....what a stable full of monster fillies there is in heaven!!!                           I suppose you too are saddened by the announced approaching retirement of Curlin. I just wish Mr. Jackson would give us one more year. My house is divided on the issue - my husband is for it ( he worries that some freak accident will befall Curlin if he continues racing) I am all for a five year old competing Curlin - so we took the news with a dose of bittersweet nostalgia. Thanks for writing some interesting, informative and entertaining pieces. I will be checking in on a very regular basis. Great forum.

Cindy Brooks-Weaver said...

AAF, I've been waiting and hoping for a response to my questions for you on NTRA site ( Bob Ehalt's "Horse of the year Revisited). I truly enjoy your writings and am sincerely curious as to why you don't think Zenyatta should have run against the boys. I'm a fellow Arkansan and am impressed by your knowledge and passion for the sport, people like you make me proud of our great state. We're not quite as "backward" as some people might like to believe and we've got a helluva track in Oaklawn. My husband and I hope that maybe we will be able to meet you and your family someday at Oaklawn. We are so ready for cornbeef, shrimp and oysters-because as any self respecting Arkansan knows, that can only mean one thing-the season is finally here!

Anonymous said...

Jimsjam33 says ...Who was the most sensational horse on a race track this year ? Zenyatta , Curlin , Big Brown , Ravens Pass , or some other worthy Champion ? I would gather to say that if 100 race fans were put in a room and voted for their favorite ..we'd probably have 10 or so horses named and each would probably be worthy of the consideration .

But lets look at the facts. One horse ran 5 times this year and won $ 664,000 , not an overwhelming amount , but still handsome for 5 races . Four victories and one second . That horse was Eight Belles , trained by Larry Jones and ridden by a novice jock named Gabriel Saez.

Eight Belles died at Churchill Downs this year , the first Saturday in May . She passed the finish line in second place and was running out a short distance to cool off and get her breath back . No one knew her front legs were fractured and she was only moments away from her death . Some experts have speculated that Eight Belles broke both of her legs during the race, but she was a Champion , not only of heart , but of spirit also . Anyone who has ever owned a horse knows that a horse has feelings , associations , loved ones , and a desire to be the best they can be. What was this charismatic horse thinking at the end ? Was she in distress or did she look past her pain and agony ? I really hope God holds a special place in Heaven for wonderful animals . Eight Belles deserves a suite .

Why not Eight Belles for HOY ? She gave her life , unwillingly albeit , but what more can a animal do for humanity and the sport of Racing . I think this horse should be honored in the highest tradition for performing the most amazing accomplishment in the history of horse racing .

If money is your criteria for honors then give it to Curlin . If Big Brown caught your eye and made your pocket book fat for him . If it was any other year I would vote for Zenyatta , what a wonderful horse and what a terrific year . Each of these horses lives on and many honors will be bestowed upon them . Please consider the one whose honor and glory stopped on the first Saturday in May , 2008 . She at least deserves that !