My Mane Squeeze upsets Grade 2 Eight Belles

Friday, May 3rd, 2024

My Mane Squeeze keeps big week rolling for her breeder and co-owner Buck Butler in the Grade 2 Eight Belles Friday at Churchill Downs. Coady Media/Churchill Downs Photo.

By Tom Law

William “Buck” Butler won a maiden race Sunday at Aqueduct with homebred Mama’s Dream – who wound up claimed for $30,000 to add to the $19,800 he picked up from the purse – and figured the week couldn’t get much better.

Friday between raindrops at Churchill Downs in front of a packed pink-clad house on Kentucky Oaks Day, Butler went for a revision.

“This is pretty good,” he said after celebrating with new partners from WinStar Farm when My Mane Squeeze scored a mild upset in the Grade 2, $534,340 Eight Belles Stakes. The 3-year-old daughter of Audible won the 7-furlong Eight Belles under Luis Saez by 2 lengths from Impel over the sloppy and sealed track.

Butler, who bred My Mane Squeeze out of his Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama, said the Eight Belles ranked as his best win.

“This has got to be it,” he said. “My first graded win. Some of the others with offspring of my mares, with siblings … they were real good, too, but not like this. And it all goes back to my Mama Theresa. She was the only stakes placed horse I had so that’s where I started with her.”

Mama’s Dream, a 3-year-old by Freud claimed Sunday, is out of the Carson City mare Mama Theresa. So is In Spite of Mama, who has now produced a graded stakes winner in addition to the multiple stakes winner Rotknee. About 24 hours before My Mane Squeeze’s victory, Butler and his wife Loretta were on hand at Aqueduct to celebrate Rotknee’s win in the $97,000 Affirmed Success Stakes to open the Belmont at the Big A meeting.

An early-morning flight from New York to Louisville got the couple to Churchill with plenty of time, but when Buck Butler felt the heat and humidity that blanketed the area following overnight, morning and afternoon showers he wasn’t quite sure what to think.

“With the rain and the heat, I said, ‘I’m going home,’ ” Butler said. “But (Loretta) made me stay. We went down and saw her in the paddock and I was overjoyed when I saw her. She wasn’t feeling real good out at Oaklawn. She looked her old self out here.”

Eighth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes March 30 at Oaklawn, a defeat which scrapped any aspirations for a run in Friday’s Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, My Mane Squeeze went to the post for the Eight Belles as the 6-1 third choice behind odds-on choice Denim and Pearls and 9-2 second pick Impel.

Saez kept My Mane Squeeze in close pursuit of Asternia, Halina’s Forte and R Harper Rose as they scrimmaged through the opening quarter-mile in :22.46.

My Mane Squeeze inched up to third behind Asternia and Halina’s Forte through the half in :45.23. Saez kept her to the outside to that point and around the far turn before taking the lead turning for home.

“My horse handled the off track beautifully,” Saez said. “She traveled great the entire backstretch and was in a very comfortable position. You can tell by my silks that they are still clean and I think that helped her down the lane. We stayed out of all the kickback and she got stronger as we got closer to the wire.”

My Mane Squeeze, winner of the Franklin Square and Maddie May against fellow New York-breds to start her sophomore campaign, opened up a 1-length lead in midstretch and widened it to 2 at the finish.

Juddmonte’s Impel, third in the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland last time out, rallied to finish third and was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of the 28-1 Asternia. My Mane Squeeze won in 1:22.85.

Mike Maker, who trains My Mane Squeeze for Butler and WinStar Farm, said the filly was in season during her trip to Hot Springs last time out. She acted up in the starting gate, dropped back to last of 10 early and finished a non-threatening eighth behind eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna.

“That was out of character,” Maker said of My Mane Squeeze’s antics in the gate at Oaklawn. “We did some schooling and it looks like it paid off. Maybe the outside post helped, she wasn’t in gate too long. But the previous start just wasn’t her.

“I was happy the way she saddled, and then when she loaded in the gate and she was behaving I was happy, and then the way she broke it was like, ‘we’ll see if she’s good enough.’ ”

Maker and Butler, who took on WinStar as a partner after her victory in the February 18 Maddie May, said My Mane Squeeze earned a shot at Grade 1 company in the Acorn Stakes June 7 during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course.

My Mane Squeeze and Rotknee were foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia and they’re two of four winners out of In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of the 6-year-old New York-bred Into Mischief colt Lookin for Trouble, was a winner and multiple stakes-placed for Butler and Maker. He earned $170,220. In Spite of Mama is also the dam of the 4-year-old New York-bred Bolt d’Oro colt Mama’s Gold, a four-time winner in 14 starts with earnings of $172,641; and a New York-bred 2-year-old filly by 2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and a yearling full brother to Rotknee.

In Spite of Mama, a 12-year-old out of the Carson City mare Mama Theresa, went 3-2-2 in 17 starts for Butler and Maker from 2014 to 2016.

Butler bought Mama Theresa for $65,000 at the 2005 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. She won six of 25 starts, placed in two stakes and earned $240,898 for Butler and Timothy Twomey and the late trainer Dominic Galluscio. In Spite of Mama is Mama Theresa’s second foal and a half-sister to five other winners, including Mana’s Dream and stakes winner A Freud of Mama, an earner of $399,818 who also finished third in the Grade 3 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park in 2019 for Butler and Maker.

My Mane Squeeze picked up $291,400 for her Eight Belles victory to boost her earnings to $604,110 from a record of 5-0-2 in eight starts.

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