Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Fiftyshadesofhay is not the best filly in the country. Princess of Sylmar holds that distinction, with Beholder and Close Hatches being the ones nipping at her heels. I guess you could say that leaves the Mike Pegram and partners filly as a second-flighter. Let me tell you, as far as second-flighters go, Fiftyshadesofhay is about as good as they get. Saturday, she’ll look to add to her already impressive list of accomplishments in the Grade 2 Indiana Oaks. The 1 1/16 mile affair carries a purse of $200,000 and goes off as the 10th race tomorrow at Indiana Downs on Indiana Derby Day.
Since a failed grass attempt on New Year’s Day, the flashy daughter of Pulpit has been a model of consistency. In six main track appearances in 2013, the Bob Baffert trained miss has won three graded stakes. Fiftyshadesofhay romped in both the Santa Ysabel and the Iowa Oaks, while demonstrating a strong determination to win in her other victory. That afternoon at Pimlico, she ran down Marathon Lady in the last few strides of the Black-Eyed Susan after needing to alter course late.
Meanwhile, her three losses in this six-race stretch all came in grade 1 racing, and at the talented hooves of either Beholder or Princess of Sylmar. Most recently, she turned in another solid performance when second in the historic Alabama Stakes. She was no real match for Princess of Sylmar that day, but she proved much the best of the rest in the ten-furlong test. That performance, of course, was flattered when the winner came back to beat the reigning queen of American dirt racing, five-year-old, Royal Delta, in last Saturday’s Beldame.
Earlier in the year, Fiftyshadesofhay proved to be Beholder’s number one competitor on the West Coast. A good second to the 2012 Juvenile Filly Champion in the Las Virgenes, was followed by a third in the Santa Anita Oaks. In that one, she was second to Beholder nearly the entire stretch before succumbing late to Iotapa for second money. So, if not for the last few yards of the Santa Anita Oaks, Fiftyshadesofhay would be unbeaten in her last six graded stakes, save Princess of Sylmar and Beholder.
In a three-year-old filly division that also includes: Dreaming of Julia, Sweet Lulu, Midnight Lucky, Emollient, Unlimited Budget, and My Happy Face, just to name a few besides the three big names mentioned at the top of this article, Fiftyshadesofhay has been able to carve out a nice niche for herself.
When she runs in the big races, she gives her all to finish just behind champions, but when the big girls are away, she certainly knows how to make hay. The pattern has been set, meaning the other Indiana Oaks fillies may only be running for second money tomorrow night.
Fiftyshadesofhay may not the best filly in the country, but so what. We should all be as lucky as to own one just like her.