Champions Series Stars to Stud: Lady Aurelia
17 Dec 2018
This week we fondly recall the exploits of the flying filly from America and wonder whether her sons and daughters might also get the chance to shine at Royal Ascot.
Ward rewards Lady Aurelia with a drink after her sizzling King’s Stand Stakes win in 2017. Picture: Racingfotos
Races: 10. Wins 4. Champions Series Wins: 1. Prize money: £614,894
British racegoers took the flying filly from America to their hearts. Blessed with tremendous speed and a charismatic trainer in Welsey Ward, she will be forever remembered for her two dazzling wins at Royal Ascot.
In 2016, she turned the Queen Mary Stakes into an exhibition – showing stunning speed in the softish ground to prevail by seven lengths in a rapid time.
Twelve months later, having won over Group 1 company over 6f in France in the interim and having suffered a surprise reverse in the Cheveley Park Stakes (found to have bled), she returned to the Royal Meeting for the King’s Stand Stakes.
Frankie Dettori, her intended rider, ruled himself out of the meeting on the morning of the race with an arm injury and must have been tempted to throw something at the TV with his good one because Lady Aurelia was again electric under John Velazquez – not being extended to win by three lengths from Profitable, who had won the race 12 months earlier.
— Champions Series (@ChampionsSeries) June 20, 2017
Dettori was back in the saddle for Lady Aurelia’s next run in the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York, and the pair were sent off at 10-11.
Crossing the line it looked like she had won and Dettori saluted to the crowd but the photo-finish revealed she had been pipped a nose by Marsha. Ward said afterwards that Lady Aurelia, too, thought she had won.
A lacklustre effort in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar in November, on her final start of the year, was easily forgiven and Ward insisted she would be much sharper for her comeback run in 2018, when again not at her peak.
As a consequence, she started 2-1 favourite to win a second King’s Stand Stakes but the brilliance was again missing and she trailed in seventh.
A month later, Ward reluctantly called time on her career, acknowledging the daughter of Scat Daddy’s powers had dimmed.
At her peak, she was awarded an official rating of 122.
Lady Aurelia was scheduled to be ridden by Frankie Dettori but he ruled himself out on the morning of the race with a shoulder injury.
That left the door open for John Velazquez, who knew her well, to take the ride.
Lady Aurelia had won in fluent style under Velazquez on her return and was sent off at 7-2 second favourite with another filly, the year older Marsha, who had previously defied a penalty when winning the Palace House Stakes, the 11-4 market leader.
Sings Of Blessing, flying the flag France, and Washington DC, representing Aidan O’Brien, were the only others among the 17-strong field sent off at single-figure odds.
The pace was frenetic on the good to firm ground but Lady Aurelia was always travelling within herself and when breezed to the front a furlong out the race was as good as over.
By the finish she had three lengths to spare over Profitable, who had won the race 12 months earlier, with Marsha a head further back. The winning time was a whisker outside the record despite Velazquez merely pushing her out hands and heels.
Timeform rated it amongst the best performances seen over 5f, her rating of 135 being only 1 lb below that given to Habibti after she dominated the European sprint scene as a three-year-old in 1983
WHAT THEY SAID:
“Lady Aurelia is a true champion. She is a sweetheart year round when she gets to the track she puts it all in.
“Last year [in 2016], she was working better than any two-year-old I had previously brought over so I knew I had something special. I expected she would win but not the dominating performance which was special.”
Wesley Ward before Lady Aurelia ran in the 2017 King’s Stand Stakes
“That was awesome. Lady Aurelia is a very special filly, a once in a lifetime horse.
“She loves it over here. We look forward to a really big summer and then the Breeders’ Cup. The owners are so excited. It is wonderful for American racing.
“She has immense talent and immense speed. Hopefully, with the experience she has now, she should get better and better.”
Ward after the King’s Stand Stakes
“She’s been retired. It was a hard decision for me, it probably wasn’t as hard for her owners. She’s been feeling so good at home, she looks a million dollars, but we have to admit that her last three races haven’t been good.
“Admittedly she set very high standards, but she hasn’t been living up to those.
“It’s best for her that she’s retired, she’s sound and healthy and she’s done a tremendous amount for my career. I can’t thank connections enough for trusting me to train her.”
Ward after announcing her retirement
WHERE SHE WILL STAND:
Future chapters of the Lady Aurelia story will revolve around Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farms breeding operation.
Lady Aurelia, who Banke bred and raced with partners, was sold at sale outright to Banke for $7.5 million this month and could be sent to Europe to be bred next season.
“I haven’t bred horses in Europe before. This would be a first if I do,” Banke told the Racing Post.
So Royal Ascot may not have heard the last from her.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM HER OFFSPRING?:
Something with speed, that is for sure. But an out-and-out sprinter? Don’t be so sure.
Coolmore’s strategy of mixing American speed with the more stamina-oriented pedigrees found in Europe has proved a winning formula and Barbara Banke, the owner of Lady Aurelia, has suggested she is likely to employ similar tactics when it comes to picking suitors for her speedy champion.
Lady Aurelia was not the biggest and, physically, did not change much from two to three. She wore blinkers as a two-year-old but merely because Ward uses the aid on all his juvenile.
Incidentally, her dam (D’Wildcat Speed) and grandam (Velvet Panther) both excelled in Puerto Rico, the former going onto prove herself at up 9f in America.