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Banke Rewarded With My Miss Aurelia

My Miss Aurelia breaks maiden at Saratoga (7-22-11).
Owner Barbara Banke knows something about talented fillies. It was just two years ago that she and her late husband Jess Jackson, along with Harold McCormick, campaigned 3-year-old Rachel Alexandra to four consecutive Grade 1 victories, including three against males, en route to Horse of the Year honors.

This year, Banke finds herself with a special 2-year-old, the morning-line favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, My Miss Aurelia, whom she co-owns with George Bolton. The undefeated Smart Strike filly was bred by and runs in the burgundy and gold colors of Stonestreet Stables, Banke and Jackson's nom de course, and is named for Bolton's mother, Aurelia.

"The fillies, especially those 'special fillies,' have a unique combination of fire and grace that you don't see in other equine athletes," said Banke. "When you see them competing in top form, it's like catching lightning in a bottle. There's nothing like it."

To date, My Miss Aurelia has provided plenty of thrills, kicking clear to break her maiden by a length at Saratoga Race Course on opening day, and in her next start, prevailing by a neck over Millionreasonswhy after a stretch duel in the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes on August 14.

For Banke, the filly's most memorable race was her most recent start, in Belmont Park's Grade 1 Frizette on October 8. Pressed through the early going by Spare Change, My Miss Aurelia drew well clear through the stretch to win under a hand ride.

"When she won by 5 ½ lengths, we knew we had something really special on our hands," Banke recalled.

While her Frizette victory may have proved it, there were signs from the start that My Miss Aurelia could be a star in the making. Out of the Sea of Secrets mare My Miss Storm Cat, she brought $550,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2010. The buyer was George Bolton, who had previously partnered with Stonestreet on another Smart Strike offspring - two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

"We certainly had no plans to sell Miss Aurelia to George, but were thrilled that he was interested, and even more so when he eventually became the buyer," said Banke. "George knows horses like no one else, and having him purchase her was a stamp of approval, of sorts."

A new partnership was forged, with Stonestreet retaining a 50 percent interest in the filly. Because Aurelia Bolton had attended most of Curlin's races and was considered to be something of a lucky charm during his career, the decision was made to name the filly in her honor. Bolton has attended all three of her namesake's races and will be present to watch her run at Churchill Downs on Friday.

"Naming this horse in honor of Aurelia was a way to give tribute to a great lady, and hopefully pass on some of that luck!" said Banke.

So far, it has worked. For Banke, returning to the Breeders' Cup with a Stonestreet homebred is especially meaningful following Jackson's death in April after a long battle with cancer.

"Jess was passionate about breeding," said Banke. "From the beginning, we set up our stables to support breeding between the finest animals we could match. To see the success of this philosophy in My Miss Aurelia is truly rewarding. Jess had a feeling that she would be a great horse, and Jess had incredible instincts."



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