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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Fiftyshadesofgold: Making Texas Proud

Fiftyshadesofgold Lone Star 615 X 400
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.











Photo by Terri Cage  

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 victory.

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 blood.











Valor Farm 
Photo by Terri Cage

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 State.














Photo by Terri Cage 



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Older Comments about Fiftyshadesofgold: Making Texas Proud...

Excellent, Mary! You captured the essence of this filly's heritage, a product of the Scharbauer's breeding program, deep in the heart of Texas. I'm still amazed that she stayed on her feet yesterday, and hope her success continues!
Nice story, Mary ... what a tough trip she had yesterday.
Why isn't Rosario's ride being villified? He put TWO horses in jeopardy, bouncing off FSH into Designer Legs. Is that really just "race riding"?

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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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