Making just her second start on dirt in her 4-year-old debut, Chiefswood Stable’s Aurora Lights sprung a 10-1 upset in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
Racing under Cornelio Velasquez for trainer Eric Coatrieux, Aurora Lights raced close to the pace in the one-mile Sabin, as 13-10 favorite Matchless Orinda led the way through splits of :24.63, :48.21, and 1:12.69. Amazing pressed the leader in second, while the other four entrants—Justwhistledixie, Champagne Eyes,Slides Choice, and Aurora Lights—were nearly side-by-side in a closely-bunched field of fillies and mares.
Matchless Orinda continued to show the way as they turned for home and held a one-length advantage over Amazing at the eighth pole, but Aurora Lights continued to gain ground on her two rivals from a three-wide path and finally struck the front in mid-stretch. She drew away while hitting the wire 2 3/4 lengths in front of Matchless Orinda and John Velazquez, who held on gamely for second. Amazing was another neck back in third.
The final time on a fast main track was 1:37.79.
“I thought there was more speed in the race, but it went slow and there was no pace so I stayed right there as best I could," Velasquez said. "And she finished the last quarter very fast. I rode this filly last time and she was in trouble the first half of the race but finished good, so I knew what I could expect from her today.”
A daughter of Pulpit, Aurora Lights notched her second graded stakes victory. As a 3-year-old, the dark bay/brown filly won the Selene Stakes (Can-III) on the Woodbine Polytrack in her stakes debut and also ran third in her most recent effort, the Stage Door Betty Handicap (gr. III) at Calder Dec. 26. Her other win came in the summer of 2009 when she broke her maiden, also at Woodbine.
Aurora Lights, who was bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams and is out of the Lord At War mare Lady Lochinvar, improved to 3-2-1 from 10 starts. She has earned $272,576.
Aurora Lights was an $800,000 Keeneland September 2007 yearling sale purchase.
“I think she can run on dirt as well as the synthetic," Coatrieux said. "She got caught down inside in her last race and had some trouble. We’ll look at the one more race for her here (grade II Rampart Stakes March 20) and then the two-turn race at Churchill during Derby week (grade II La Troienne April 30). We’ll try to stay away from the two big girls for now (Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta).”
The second longest shot on the board, Aurora Lights paid $23, $8, and $5. The exacta (5-2) returned $76.70 and the $1 trifecta (5-2-3) was $113.40.
Justwhistledixie finished fourth as the second choice, followed by Champagne Eyes and Slides Choice. Jessica Is Back and Miss Match were scratched.