Photo: Terri Cage Photography
A filly the same color as the ominous storm clouds that were
gathering above the Lone Star Park
grandstand on the evening of May 24 strolled along the outside rail, appearing
incredibly cool and collected for a two-year-old making her first start. My
eyes focused on the filly that I had met a month earlier, who was now the heavy
favorite in a ten-horse field of Texas-bred juvenile fillies.
Her name was Fiftyshadesofgold. Although
she had yet to race, there had been much talk about the Bret Calhoun trainee due to the impression she’d made in the
mornings, displaying brilliance in her collection of works leading up to her
debut. In this five-furlong maiden special weight, Fiftyshadesofgold would
prove if she could live up to all of the hype surrounding her.
Alongside nine other rivals, only two of which had racing experience, Fiftyshadesofgold
warmed up before the crowd gathered at the Grand Prairie, Texas track,
maintaining her composure. She loaded into the gate on the far side of the
track without a problem and for a brief moment in time, the world was still.
Fiftyshadesofgold was still an untested two-year-old who had yet to prove her
talent. Less than 58 seconds later, however, she would leave all those watching
her in awe of her brilliance, pondering what her future held.
Fiftyshadesofgold exited the sixth gate in a clean manner, swiftly settling
into a stalking position with jockey Cliff
Berry – the all-time leading rider at Lone Star Park – aboard. Using her
powerful strides to make a sweeping move around the turn, Fiftyshadesofgold
soared to the lead outside the quarter pole, seizing a distinct advantage as
the field turned for home.
In a mere hand ride from Berry, Fiftyshadesofgold drew away from her opponents
with utter effortlessness, her long, graceful strides carrying her toward the
wire as she abandoned the other fillies. Although Berry ceased to ask the
gifted two-year-old for any further speed, the dark gray filly continued to
extend her lead down the lane. She coasted under the wire ten lengths in front,
posting a final time that was just 1.51 seconds off the track record despite
being geared down in the late stages of the race. Her win served as trainer
Bret Calhoun's 600th Lone Star Park victory.
As a result of her breathtaking maiden triumph, Fiftyshadesofgold departed Lone
Star Park for Churchill Downs, where
she would make her stakes debut in the Debutante Stakes on June 22. Sent off as
the favorite in a field of eleven, the gray filly broke sharply from the tenth
post, racing wide as she raced abreast the leaders. The tall filly loomed large
around the far turn, collaring the leader as Corey Lanerie sat like a statue
aboard her. Easily taking the lead near the end of the curve, Fiftyshadesofgold
swept into the homestretch with sheer power, taking off as the left her
competitors in the dust. In an astounding display of pure ease and strength,
Fiftyshadesofgold opened up on the field, gliding to a jaw-dropping 8-length
With her impressive triumph, it was no longer just the state
of Texas talking about the filly. The entire nation had a new star to discuss.
Calhoun prepared the filly for a start in the Adirondack Stakes (GII) at the
nation’s most prestigious summer meet – Saratoga.
Breaking from the inside gate as the heavy favorite, Fiftyshadesofgold remained
along the rail as she tracked the leaders. However, this position along the
inside compromised her chances, as after being boxed in around the far turn,
the tall, imposing filly remained trapped behind rivals.
It appeared as if she would be able to rally through a spot that opened up on
the rail, but as she did so, she was pushed into the rail by Who’s In Town,
forcing her to check and lose momentum. Despite this predicament,
Fiftyshadesofgold was able to cross the wire in fourth and after Who’s In Town
was disqualified from first, the Calhoun trainee was promoted to third, able to
gain a placing after her troubled but respectable performance.
Fiftyshadesofgold is a homebred for Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., former president
of the American Quarter Horse Association whose family owned the great Alysheba, Kentucky Derby (GI) winner
and 1988 Horse of the Year. Born on the Scharbauers’ beautiful Valor Farm in Pilot
Point, Texas, Fiftyshadesofgold’s pedigree is a model of the farm’s bluest
Her sire is My Golden Song, one of the most elite stallions on Valor's strong
stallion roster. My Golden Song, who was third behind 2006 Kentucky Derby
victor Barbaro in the 2006 Holy Bull
Stakes (GIII), has sired many Texas stakes horses, including the multiple
black-type winners Cowgirl N Up and Platinum Song, as well as the additional
black-type winners Smiles Golden Song and Triumph And Song. A son of the late Unbridled’s Song, who has ranked among
the top ten sires on the continent for six of the past ten years, My Golden
Song shares the same sire as many blossoming stallions, including Eurosilver,
Even the Score, Political Force, and, most notably, Songandaprayer.
Although Fiftyshadesofgold’s dam, Hadif Cat, encountered little success at the
track, the mare has found greater achievements as a broodmare. Since her racing
career ended in 2006, Hadif Cat has produced the black-type winners Sword Trick
and Tastefullyxcessive, the former of which earned more than $210,000. Hadif
Cat is a daughter of the group three-winning Hadif, a former Valor Farm
stallion that became one of the most influential sires in Texas. As a broodmare
sire, the half-brother to the grade one-winning Secret Hello has produced the
dams of many black-type winners, including Early Final, Final Trick,
Hadavision, My Three Girls, Sax Appeal, Stormin Quality, and Triumph And Song.
Fiftyshadesofgold’s third dam is Alysbelle, a full sister to Alysheba and a
graded stakes victress that placed in a pair of grade ones. She found similar
success as a broodmare, producing the multiple group stakes-winning Matikane
Kinnohosi and Golden Spur, a horse that earned over $100,000. This makes
Fiftyshadesofgold a direct descendant of the Reine De Course mare Belthazar,
who was the last foal sired by Triple Crown winner War Admiral.
Texas-breds like Fiftyshadesofgold rarely make a name for themselves on the
national scene, but Fiftyshadesofgold has done just early on in her career. There
is no prouder state than Texas and should this brilliant filly continue to find
success at premier tracks across the nation, she will have a large fan base
behind her, cheering her along the way. In a time during which Texas racing is
struggling, Fiftyshadesofgold is a shining golden ray of hope for the Lone Star
Photo by Terri Cage