My Miss Aurelia, the 2011 champion juvenile filly, who just missed being named the 2012 champion 3-year-old filly, will begin her 4-year-old campaign in Saturday's $150,000 Azeri Stakes (G3). The 1 1/16-mile race, the last local prep before the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 12 drew a short, but talented field of five.
Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton's My Miss Aurelia has not raced since finishing third in the La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Dec. 26 over a wet-fast racetrack. One race prior, she suffered her first career defeat when second to champion Royal Delta in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. Up to that point, she had been undefeated in six career starts, including the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs and Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx. Regular rider Corey Nakatani comes in from Southern California for the mount.
“It's exciting when one like her comes around,” said Darren Fleming, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.
The Azeri won't be an easy task for My Miss Aurelia as all four of her competitors have the credentials to pull the upset. Chief among them is Don't Tell Sophia, who has already established herself as the best local older female with runaway victories in the $75,000 Pippin Stakes and $100,000 Bayakoa Stakes. The 5-year-old Congaree mare has continued to train well since the Feb. 16 Bayakoa and will once again have the services of jockey Robby Albarado.
“I would like to have more in there,” said Don't Tell Sophia's trainer Phil Sims. “I hate short fields. Mainly on principle because of the pace. It seems sometimes some horses find even more trouble in the small fields because they all bunch up. But she's ready.”
The other key Azeri contenders figure to be last year's winner Tiz Miz Sue, most recently third in the Bayakoa, and the Donnie K. Von Hemel-trained entry of She's All In and Songs and Sonnets. She's All In was second in the Bayakoa, while Songs and Sonnets, the daughter of multiples stakes winner Bedanka, makes her stakes debut off an impressive allowance win.
“The complexion changed quite a bit,” said Von Hemel of My Miss Aurelia joining the field. “It goes from guessing how you are going to beat ‘Sophia' to how are you going to beat two of them. And then I wouldn't want to dis Tiz Miz Sue. It's obviously a small but select group and everybody's tough. For Songs and Sonnets, it's not exactly the easiest way to make your stakes debut. She's doing so good, and sometimes you just have to take a chance.”
The complete field for the Azeri with their riders in program order: Tiz Miz Sue, Joe Rocco Jr.; Holy Heavens, Israel Ocampo; She's All In, Luis Quinonez; Songs and Sonnets, Garrett Gomez; Keiai Tokyo, Rosemary Homeister Jr.; Don't Tell Sophia, Robby Albarado, and My Miss Aurelia, Corey Nakatani.
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