James Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle made a decisive move approaching the stretch and showed her class when holding off the well regarded Stellaris in the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Oaks Saturday afternoon at Arlington International Racecourse. After breaking from post nine in the field of ten, the daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid was positioned well, despite the short run to the first turn. Stalking in third the majority of the running, the Wayne Catalano trainee seized the lead at the top of the stretch and opened up a 3½-length advantage on a chasing Stellaris before having that gap curtailed to three-quarters of a length at the wire.
Ridden by Channing Hill, for whom she won her only other stakes in the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park in March, the Kentucky-bred traveled the 1 1/8-miles distance in 1:52.34 over Arlington's Polytrack main course. Pacesetter Phaniebdancing set earlier fractions of 24.71, 49.35, 1:14.69, before Aurelia’s Belle commandeered command and hit the mile mark in 1:39.81. Sent off at 6-5, Aurelia’s Belle returned $4.40, $2.60 and $2.40 as the public's wagering choice, earning $85,500 to boost her career bankroll to $339,247. The Oaks was her first race at Arlington, but she had been training exceptionally over the course in recent weeks.
“I think the blinkers helped her move forward a little bit, especially in the last eighth of a mile,” Hill remarked. “(Stellaris) really put her game on and chased us pretty well. I knew my filly was going to be tough. Down the backside she settled really nice and down the lane she moved to the lead pretty easily.”
As far as what is next after such an excellent win, Catalano was noncommittal. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and take a look,” he explained. “She’s been running pretty hard. We’ll probably get her back on the grass. That’s probably her surface.” As far as adding blinkers recently, “I just wanted to get her focused. She gets to looking around a little bit and I thought they’d help her.”
Tom Van Meter and Mike Stidham's Stellaris was beaten to the jump by the winner, but closed resolutely to finish second under James Graham, returning $4.20 and $3.40. Stidham also trains the daughter of the late Harlan’s Holiday. Holmark Stables II's She’s Offlee Good, ridden by E. T. Baird for trainer Richie Scherer, ran gamely throughout to be third-best – beaten five lengths and returning $5.20 to show.
“She did everything right. She’s just a big filly and she’s still growing,” Graham said. “She ran on dirt last time and just didn’t have enough this time.”
Baird echoed similar sentiments. “Those other two fillies really just out-footed me. I got a really good trip. The fractions weren’t too hard and we were laying second pretty comfortably. She hung in there hard.”
Interrupted, Maria Maria, Colonel Joan, Phaniebdancing, Army, Stock Yard Hen and Annulment completed the order of finish.