Last year’s 2-year-old champion filly toyed briefly with the field.
My Miss Aurelia stumbled out of the gate Wednesday in the $100,000 Mandy’s Gold at Saratoga Race Course, but recovered quickly after spotting the other four horses a bit of ground. In her first race since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November — recovering from a shin injury — she began her move early in the turn of the 61⁄2-furlong dirt sprint and went off to win by three lengths under jockey Julien Leparoux.
“It’s great to see her back at the races,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “We just want to be sure she’s OK with the little stumble away from there. Julien said she caught well, and we’re excited to have her back at the races.”
Srumdiddlyumptious led the field through a quarter mile in 22.40 and a half in 45.71 before fading to fourth. My Miss Aurelia had gotten her feet under her quick enough to not lose contact with the field and began gaining on the pace-setter early in the turn.
Delightful Quality got out to the three path before My Miss Aurelia, who settled for the four and rounded into the stretch with a head lead on Delightful Quality, the pair three lengths in front of Well Kept. My Miss Aurelia then pulled away from Delightful Quality.
“I think at the start, she pushed from behind and kind of slid,” Leparoux said. “After that, she was so relaxed. She was running so comfortably. I was very confident.”
It seemed most of the fans knew what to expect, sending My Miss Aurelia off at 1-4 odds. But Asmussen wouldn’t admit to being quite that free of anxiety at the start.
“You watched her stumble away from there. We’ve watched races, we watched a 3-5 shot get knocked down the other day with Ramon [Dominguez],” he said. “We’ve all been to the races. They’re so sure of the outcome, they’ll let you bet on it.”
The race was for 3-year-old fillies which have not won a graded stakes in 2012.
One big difference between My Miss Aurelia and each of her opponents was that they had all at least raced in 2012. Only one of those, last-place Xunlei, had run in a graded stakes — a fifth in the Grade III Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on May 4.
Behind Delightful Quality, Well Kept was another 21⁄2 lengths away, and Srumdiddlyumptious was another length back in fourth.
Last year, My Miss Aurelia won in her debut at Saratoga, then won the Grade II Adirondack before heading to New York. She then won the Grade I Frizette at Belmont and Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. The Smart Strike filly co-owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton is now 5-for-5.
“She’s tremendous. Her ability level is up,” Asmussen said. “Her works this year have been amazing, and I think she’ll have a huge year.”
The stumble aside, another note of concern was her almost sideways stretch run as Leparoux tried to get her to switch leads. Bolton said Leparoux was not too concerned, though.
“He thinks she was looking at the stands the whole way down the stretch,” Bolton said. “That’s why he couldn’t get her to change leads. That was a nice piece of news from Julien that she was not in some kind of recovery mode, but was feeling good and was curious [about] what was going on.”
Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Stables said they will still give My Miss Aurelia a thorough once-over to make sure the stumble is no cause for further concern before looking for the next spot to run her, possibly back at Saratoga.
“We’ll be checking her from nose to tail and making sure that she is 100 percent,” Banke said. “We always like racing at Saratoga, so it would be a nice thing to do if we can get her back here. It might be a little quick, but possibly.”