ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- On a sunny July afternoon billed by Arlington Park as Guys' Day Out, ten sophomore distaffers took the stage in the Grade III Arlington Oaks, a $150,000 race for three-year-old fillies at a mile and an eighth over the polytrack. The only one in the field who had won a graded stakes prior to the Arlington Oaks was two-time Grade III winner Aurelia's Belle, winner of both the Bourbonette Oaks as well as the Regret Stakes this year. Other stakes winners present for the race included Pennsylvania Oaks winner Interrupted and Arlington-Washington Lassie winner She's Offlee Good.
Aurelia's Belle was the 2/1 favourite on the morning line, and the early money liked her even more. She opened at 6/5. The early money also liked Interrupted at 7/2, as well as Stellaris at 6/1. In the paddock, it was both Stellaris and She's Offlee Good who looked energetic, up on their toes, and ready to run. The entire field looked very composed with the exception of the roiled-up Stock Yard Hen. However, it was She's Offlee Good who caused a brief delay: she threw a shoe in the post parade, and the field briefly returned to the paddock while that was fixed. As post time approached, Aurelia's Belle remained the betting favourite. Her odds floated between even money and 9/5, settling at 6/5 when the gates opened. Stellaris settled down as the bettors' second choice at 4/1, and Interrupted drifted up to 5/1 by post time.
She's Offlee Good broke like a shot, but it was Phaniebdancing who moved quickly up the rail and had the lead once the pace settled. She's Offlee Good stalked in second, with Aurelia's Belle and Interrupted closest behind her. Phaniebdancing got loose on the lead, as much as half a dozen lengths ahead along the backstretch. She set honest fractions for a race of this length: 24.64 for the quarter, 49.35 for the half. Past the half-mile pole, the field closed in on the pacesetter. Through the far turn, Aurelia's Belle moved outside Phaniebdancing, took the lead turning for home, and quickly opened up daylight between her and the field. Stellaris, mid-pack early, closed in and turned for home three wide. She picked up her stride and made up almost enough ground in the final furlong, but Aurelia's Belle had gotten too far away. Come the wire, she still trailed the winner by three quarters of a length. It was another four and a quarter lengths back to She's Offlee Good, who ran evenly down the stretch but had no challenge for the top two. She was another five and a half lengths in front of Interrupting, who crossed the wire a head in front of Maria Maria. Colonel Joan, Phaniebdancing, Army, Stock Yard Hen, and Annulment completed the order of finish.
Aurelia's Belle, now a three-time graded stakes winner, is a three-year-old filly by Lemon Drop Kid out of the Danzig mare Aurelia. She is owned by James F. Miller, and trained by Wayne Catalano. She is now a perfect three-for-three on polytrack: she broke her maiden at first asking over the Keeneland main track last October, and also won the Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) at Turfway in March. Her other graded stakes victory, in the Regret Stakes (GIII), was at this mile and an eighth distance over the Churchill turf. Though this was her first time racing at the suburban oval, both trainer Catalano and jockey Channing Hill are Arlington mainstays. This was the first career Arlington Oaks victory for each of them.
Aurelia's Belle wore blinkers for the first time in this race. Trainer Wayne Catalano explained, "I just wanted to get her focused . She gets to looking around a little bit and I thought they'd help her. Jockey Channing Hill felt they served their purpose. "I think the blinkers just helped her move forward a little bit", he noted, "especially in the last eighth of a mile. [Stellaris] really put her game on and chased us pretty well."
When asked about what is next for Aurelia's Belle, Catalano had ideas, but no concrete races in mind. "We'll go back to the drawing board and take a look. She's been running pretty hard. We'll probably get her back on the grass. That's probably her surface."
James Graham, rider of second-place Stellaris, thought his filly ran well despite finishing just short. "I wouldn't say she needed any more distance; she did everything right. She's just a big filly and she's still growing."
Aurelia's Belle finished the race in 1:52.34, and paid her backers $4.40 to win. An exacta with her over Stellaris paid $20.00 for each $2 base bet. The $0.50 trifecta with She's Offlee Good in the lowest rung returned $56.50. The $0.10 superfecta with Interrupting in the lowest rung came back with $44.55 for each dime bet on the combination.
All photos courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
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