With a crash and a thud and a boom and a bang, fickle fans of racing jumped ship in mid-stretch of yesterday’s Grade 1 La Brea Stakes. The excellent three-year-old filly, My Miss Aurelia, went down at odds of 2-5 much like the Mighty Casey had done so many years before. Book Review won the La Brea by a neck, with Reneesgotzip finishing another neck in front of My Miss Aurelia. It was a surprising result to many, and to some it even meant that the favorite must simply not be as good as they thought. For me, the latter portion of this statement could not be any farther from the truth. Yesterday’s task was a difficult one to begin with for the Steve Asmussen trained miss. My Miss Aurelia had run her heart out in the fall with two superlative efforts, especially when you consider she was a filly light in conditioning in 2012. In the Cotillion victory and the runner-up finish to Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, she had proven her class with two bang-up efforts in a pair of big two-turn races. Now she was asked to turn back to a sprint distance against some of the best female sprinters around, and give them plenty of weight while doing so. In truth, I thought she could do it, but recognizing the recipe for an upset was never too far from the surface. In the end, it was contested and crazy early fractions that were her undoing. While long shot Nechez Dawn went right after the blazing speed of Reneesgotzip, it would have made sense for My Miss Aurelia to sit back a little and wait for the speed to get softened up. Instead she was sent headfirst into the fire through an opening two furlongs in 22.42 seconds, and then a brutal half in 44.17. Surely that second quarter of 21.75 seconds would become telling in the late stages of the long sprint. But as the interloper fell away, Reneesgotzip, on the inside, and My Miss Aurelia continued their battle through much of the stretch. Book Review, who was well back early, and a real seven furlong filly, would be the one to come, and her rally proved irresistible to the leg-weary leaders. For his part in the half-length defeat, My Miss Aurelia’s rider, Corey Nakatani, offered this after the race, “Not the ideal trip. I wanted to be back a little ways (off the pace). I was sitting there against her and they’re riding next to me and you move on her and she goes. I was trying to wait-wait-wait-wait and when you do that, it takes the race away from her. It wasn’t the best of trips.”
In truth, Nakatani was between a rock and a hard place yesterday. If you are aboard a 2-5 champion that waits too long to go after one of the fastest fillies in the nation, in Reneesgotzip, you may never get to ride said champion again if she does not get up at the sprinting distance of seven panels. Nakatani chose to go, and the blistering pace, along with a solid bump in the stretch, and the giving of five pounds, and coming out of a tough pair of longer races, and … well you get the idea. There was absolutely nothing to be ashamed with in My Miss Aurelia’s performance yesterday.
I may suddenly now be in the minority, but I still believe that My Miss Aurelia is the finest three-year-old filly in the land. Maybe it is the fact that she has defeated her primary competition for the Eclipse Award, Questing, in all three of their meetings, or maybe it is simply due to my staunch belief that the Champion Juvenile Filly of 2011 is truly a good one. Either way, I will hold on to this belief through the Eclipse Award announcements, no matter which way the chips may fall, and wait with eager anticipation for a healthy and mature version of My Miss Aurelia in 2013.