While many of the equine categories of the 2012 Eclipse Awards are nearly a forgone conclusion, that's certainly not the case with the 3-Year-Old Filly division.
Following the Breeders' Cup in early November, it appeared My Miss Aurelia was in the driver's seat to take home her second Eclipse Award after being named top 2-Year-Old Filly in 2011. The main knock on My Miss Aurelia this year was probably her light racing schedule, and perhaps that's one reason her connections sought ought one more top-level spot for her in 2012.
The strategy may have backfired.
During opening day at Santa Anita Wednesday, the daughter of Smart Strike was upset as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes. Jockey Corey Nakatani admitted My Miss Aurelia didn't get the best of trips, and the race came down to a three-horse photo, with My Miss Aurelia finishing third behind Book Review and Reneesgotzip. The loss left 2012 like this for the Stonestreet filly trained by Steve Asmussen: Two wins – including one Grade 1 – from four starts, plus a second-place finish behind Royal Delta in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, and a close third in another Grade 1.
Is that enough to win the 3-year-old title? It still might be this year.
Unless voters take a non-traditional approach and go with a turfer like Lady of Shamrock, Questing would seem the logical alternative to My Miss Aurelia. The daughter of Hard Spun raced more often in 2012 and chalked up one more Grade 1 than My Miss Aurelia. She finished the year with three wins from seven starts, but she also lost two head-to-head matchups with My Miss Aurelia – one in the Grade 1 Cotillion and one in the Ladies' Classic. In the latter race, Questing wasn't even competitive, as she was pulled up and vanned off.
Questing's case hangs on two very impressive performances in the TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes, both at Saratoga over the summer. In the first half of the year, the Godolphin-owned filly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin was one for three in allowance optional claiming races. In the Cotillion at Parx Racing in late September, Questing seemingly had things her own way on the front end, with splits of 25.19 and 50.04 going 1 1/16 miles, but could not shut the door on My Miss Aurelia. In Questing's favor, she did have to carry seven pounds more than her rival.
Is Questing's extra Grade 1 better than a second to Royal Delta and two head-to-head matchups won by My Miss Aurelia? It's a tough call, but the two head-to-heads and the fact that Questing wasn't close to being on her game in the biggest race of the year likely still gives My Miss Aurelia the edge, despite her photo-finish at year's end.
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