Velazquez unfairly blamed for Lady Aurelia's Royal Ascot flop

June 19, 2018 03:09pm
To the disappointment of fans across North America and Europe, Lady Aurelia chased Battaash toward the finish line in the King’s Stand Stakes (G1) at Ascot Racecourse and came up empty. Nothing appeared unusual, but Lady Aurelia didn't offer anything late.

Blue Point mowed down Battaash and picked up the victory at Royal Ascot, while Battaash held on for second. Lady Aurelia finished a well-beaten seventh.

What happened this time?

Unfortunately, Lady Aurelia has declined in form since her sharp 2017 King’s Stand victory, and sometimes there is nothing that can be done about that. Horses change. She has lost four races since then, and will lose more if kept at this high a level.

Yet, Lady Aurelia’s rider, Johnny Velazquez, was bashed after the race on ITV's coverage (simulcast to NBC Sports Network). The complaint seems seem more based on emotion rather than logic.

The main criticism was that Velazquez put Lady Aurelia too close to a hot pace, and that she needed to be held back slightly. The ITV commentator asked after the race, “What the hell was Johnny Velazquez doing on Lady Aurelia? A point and shoot horse and he rides the horse like a normal animal.”

From rewatching the race, though, Lady Aurelia seemed to be in a normal position. She tends to show speed in her races, and while she does not set the pace, she usually fits somewhere up front either pressing or stalking the leaders.

If the pace went too fast, then hoe did Bataash keep fighting toward the end and keep second? If Lady Aurelia had any fight left, she would continue to battle Bataash towards the line as Blue Point passed.

“She broke well from the gate. I was where I wanted to be," Velazquez told NBC Sports. "When I did ask her, she just kind of stayed flat the entire way around.”

He could have used those comments to describe her last two starts.

In the 2018 Giant's Causeway Stakes, Lady Aurelia broke well at Keeneland while chasing the leader Morticia around the turn, and then appeared flat as Triple Chelsea mowed her down. The difference is, she faced weaker horses at Keeneland and maintained second.

Lady Aurelia did the same thing at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, where she chased the leaders in a fairly up-front position in fourth, then flattened out.

Four starts ago, Lady Aurelia faced Bataash in the Nunthorpe Stakes (G1), and she still looked incredible at that point. Bataash tried to move with her toward the lead, but Lady Aurelia secured the front in mid-race while clear and put Bataash away easily.

In the 2017 King’s Stand, Lady Aurelia showed a good amount of speed too. Unlike in this edition, she just happened to kick in as the race went on, while staying in the clear. What exactly was she pointing and shooting at back then? She had no horse in front.

When asked if Lady Aurelia lost some spark, Velazquez kindly responded, “Maybe. It’s hard to know, because she’s sprinting well … she was not quite there.”

Deep down, he probably knows she is done as a world-class turf sprinter. Connections are always hesitant to say anything negative about their horse. She has not been “quite there” for three races, and the "maybe" almost admits it.

Is the commentator wrong for criticizing Velazquez’s ride, though? If he reworded the thought and ditched the “what the hell?” part, it would come across better. Still, analysts should be able to critique the race as they see fit. Otherwise, no one would be able to share different ideas on how the race unfolded.

Did Velazquez actually give a poor ride? No. Lady Aurelia was mowed down by Triple Chelsea at Keeneland, and figured to lose again at Royal Ascot.

Lady Aurelia is a very popular horse, especially in Europe. Everyone just assumed her old form would suddenly reappear again in the King’s Stand, and it did not. If the connections continue on, bettors need to let go of the past and analyze her from the “here and now” point of view. That way, they will not be as disappointed.

But when analysts or bettors attach themselves to fan favorites who lose, every excuse seems to come out of the woodwork, and the first target is the jockey.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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