Aurelia's Belle, returned to Polytrack after three tough graded stakes at Gulfstream Park, swept past favored Sloane Square at mid-stretch to post a 2 1/4-length win in the $125,000 Pure Romance Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) March 22 at Turfway Park (VIDEO).
Ridden patiently by Channing Hill, the stalking Aurelia's Belle earned her first stakes victory in the one-mile test for 3-year-old fillies while timed in 1:38.99. Sloane Square was a clear second by 2 1/2 lengths over Katie's Eyes.
Wayne Catalano trains the winning daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Danzig mare Auerelia for James Miller, who paid $170,000 for the bay filly at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale out of the Gainesway consignment. Bred in Kentucky by Alexander/Groves/Matz, Aurelia's Belle is the first stakes winner from five to start for her dam.
Aurelia's Belle is the 75th stakes winner for her sire, who stands for a 2014 fee of $35,000 at Lane's End in Kentucky.
Aurelia's Belle won her debut on Polytrack at Keeneland over maidens last October. She had further demonstrated her quality subsquently, placing in each of Gulfstream's graded stakes for 3-year-old fillies on dirt—the Old Hat (gr. III), Forward Gal (gr. II), and the Davona Dale (gr. II).
Catalano said he was happy to get the filly away from Gulfstream, and he found a little easier spot here.
"She likes the Polytrack; she won on it her first time (out)," Catalano noted. "She worked great on it the other day at Keeneland (five furlongs in a bullet :59 flat March 18). "She got a beautiful trip. The race set up just like we thought. It was a great ride from Channing to get her out when she needed to."
Michael Tabor's Sloane Square, unbeaten in two tries for trainer Todd Pletcher, was favored off a 9 3/4-length tally in a first-level allowance going seven furlongs at Calder Casino & Race Course Feb. 21. She was making her her first start around two turns.
Sent off as the second choice at 7-2, Aurelia's Belle raced in fourth while tucked in near the rail as Stormy Novel, pushed along by Sloane Square and Zensational Bunny, showed the way narrowly through quarter mile fractions of :23.91, :46.99, and 1:12.57.
Sloan Square, ridden by John Velazquez, inherited the lead at the top of the stretch as both the pacesetter and Zensational Bunny gave way, and opened a clear advantage in the drive. But she was no match approaching the furlong mark as Aurelia's Belle, who had eased out on the far turn and came charging on the outside. She won impressively under good handling from Hill.
Katie's Eyes, ridden by Corey Lanerie, kept on for third as La Mejor Fiesta closed from far back to finish fourth.
"She was really comfortable the entire race," Hill said. "The speed went ahead but she sat behind them. She showed her class today. She tipped out and she didn't even fully extend herself. She was geared down once she left her company."
Third in Gulfstream's 1 1/16-mile Davona Dale Feb. 22, Aurelia's Belle scored her first victory since her maiden debut on the Keeneland Polytrack last October. She improved her career mark to 2-1-2 in five starts with earnings of $176,450.
Carrying 118 pounds, Aurelia's Belle paid $9.40, $4.40, and $3.20. She keyed a $37.80 exacta with Sloane Square, who returned $3.80 and $3.40. Katie's Eyes paid $8.40.
Velazquez and Pletcher were seeking their third straight win in the Bourbonette Oaks with Sloane Square following In Lingerie in 2012 and Silsita last year.
"It just didn't happen," Velazquez said while crediting the winnner. "I had a horse to the inside of me and another to the outside. She didn't like getting taken into a hole, but she still ran a good race. I think the most difference was we didn't get to relax in the first part and we were fighting the whole way around."
In a strung out finish, La Mejor Fiesta was followed by Super Sky, Stormy Novel, Zensational Bunny, Shanon Nicole, Swiss Lake Yodeler, Cheerful Contender, and Sommerville Miss. Turtle River scratched.
The Bourbonette Oaks was worth 85 points toward a start in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 2 at Churchill Downs on a 50-20-10-5 basis for the first four finishers.
"We liked the timing of this going into the (Kentucky) Oaks," Catalano said. "That race looks like the next step. That's (owner Jim Miller's) dream, to win the Oaks. That's why we're here. At least we know we'll get in there."