Aurelia's Belle faced stakes rivals on on three occasions prior to Saturday, reputing herself well with placings each time, but it took returning to the synthetic Polytrack for the bay miss to finally break through with her first black-type victory in Turfway Park's Grade 3, $126,000 Bourbonette Oaks.
Stormy Novel utilized her rail post to take command of the Oaks soon after the start, setting splits of :23 4/5, :46 4/5 and 1:12 2/5 while pressed the entire way by Sloane Square to her outside. Zensational Bunny put in a sensational move from third to suddenly challenge on the outside, but immediately began backing up again as the front runners neared the final turn.
Meanwhile, Aurelia's Belle was just waiting for her cue from jockey Channing Hill before beginning her move. The James F. Miller colorbearer split rivals midway around the turn and headed into the stretch with clear aim on the leaders. She easily gained the advantage and kept motoring to be 2 1/4 lengths clear of 2-1 favorite Sloane Square on the wire.
"She was really comfortable the entire race. The speed went ahead but she sat behind them," Hill said. "She showed her class today. She tipped out and she didn't even fully extend herself. She was geared down once she left her company."
Sloane Square, who suffered her first career loss in this, her stakes debut, was 2 1/2 lengths up on Katie's Eyes on the wire, while La Mejor Fiesta completed the top four under the line.
"It just didn't happen. I had a horse to the inside of me and another to the outside. She didn't like getting taken into a hole, but she still ran a good race," stated John Velazquez, who had piloting duties aboard Sloane Square. "The winner is a nice horse. She had been running in good races at Gulfstream, so a nice horse beat me today. I think the most difference was we didn't get to relax in the first part and we were fighting the whole way around."
"It was good. Our post position was wide but she broke really sharp and I was in a good position," explained Corey Lanerie, who held the reins on Katie's Eyes. "I don't know where (Zensational Bunny) came from, going around the first turn -- that got my filly rank again. She settled coming around the (final) turn here. I was a little wide, just kind of riding the racetrack, but she ran really good."
Super Sky, Stormy Novel, Zensational Bunny, Shanon Nicole, Swiss Lake Yodeler, Cheerful Contender and Sommerville Miss came next while Turtle River was withdrawn.
Aurelia's Belle was sent off the 7-2 second choice and paid $9.40 for finishing a mile on the Polytrack in 1:38 4/5. She also earned 50 points toward a starting berth in the May 2 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, and moved to the top of the leaderboard with a total of 64 points.
Her other 14 points came via a runner-up effort in the Forward Gal and a third in the Davona Dale, both at Gulfstream Park. The Wayne Catalano pupil started off the year with a third in the Old Hat, also at Gulfstream, in her first try on dirt. Aurelia's Belle broke her maiden at first asking last October over Keeneland's Polytrack in her only juvenile start.
"She likes the Polytrack; she won on it her first time (out). She worked great on it the other day at Keeneland," Catalano remarked. "She got a beautiful trip. The race set up just like we thought. It was a great ride from Channing to get her out when she needed to.
"We liked the timing of this going into the (Kentucky) Oaks. That race looks like the next step. That's (owner Jim Miller's) dream, to win the Oaks. That's why we're here. At least we know we'll get in there."
Miller purchased Aurelia's Belle for $170,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Bred in Kentucky by Alexander-Groves-Matz, the bay miss is out of the Danzig mare Aurelia, who never actually won on track but found breeding shed success with the Bourbonette Oaks winner.
Aurelia is herself the daughter of Grade 2 diva Aishah, who also produced Grade 1 scorer Aldiza, Grade 2 heroine Atelier, stakes winner Arabis, Grade 1-placed Aunt Anne, Grade 3 runner-up Elajjud and multiple stakes-placed They Call Me Giant.
Aurelias Belle counts as her third dam 1983 Broodmare of the Year and blue-hen mare Courtly Dee, whose descendants include champion two-year-old filly Althea; UAE Horse of the Year Festival of Light; Japanese champion filly Yamanin Paradise; Grade 1-scoring millionaire Acoma; and Grade/Group 1 winners Balletto, Ali Oop, Ketoh, Aldiza and Green Desert.