There is one two-year-old filly flying the flag for the USA far from these shores. Lady Aurelia may only have won a maiden in America, but she has become a star of the international horse racing stage thanks to her exploits in Europe.
California-based Wesley Ward (pictured), who trains the daughter of Scat Daddy, debuted her in a maiden special weight on dirt at Keeneland in April. The filly duly destroyed her rivals sauntering home over the four-and-a-half furlong trip by over seven lengths. That encouraged the ground-breaking trainer to ship Lady Aurelia to England for the five-furlong (1000 metres) Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes on turf described as soft.
Royal Ascot is a meeting Ward has taken by storm in the past and the locals made Lady Aurelia the 2/1 favorite for what was, at that stage of the year, the premier race in Europe for two-year-old fillies. She put up the performance of the prestigious five-day Royal Ascot meeting when wiring the field and shooting clear to win by seven lengths under England-based Italian jockey Frankie Dettori.
Next stop was a Group 1 at Deauville in France over six furlongs. Again she made all the running and won cosily from her five rivals, but the winning margin was less than a length and despite starting 2/7 favorite in the betting, her level of dominance was not quite what most pundits had been expecting.
Now she tackles the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket, the headquarters of British racing, on Saturday (9.55am Eastern Time, 2.55pm local time). There is a sense that some of the opposition believe they are now in with a chance. The feeling among some of the UK trainers is that their fillies have had time to catch up physically with the American imposter.
The trainer of the second favorite, Richard Fahey, certainly senses the opportunity to dent the Lady Aurelia’s reputation. He saddles Queen Kindly, a daughter of Frankel who won the Group 2 Lowther Stakes last time over this six-furlong distance at York racecourse.
Fahey particularly has been talking up the chance of his filly. The trainer believes Queen Kindly is the best he has ever had, however Fahey’s best would not equate with Ward’s best. Nevertheless there may be something in the talk that by this time of year the UK fillies are catching up with the precocious American juvenile. Fahey is pinning his hopes on that theory.
Aidan O’Brien can never be discounted in the top European races, and he saddles two. The best of his duo would be Roly Poly, who was less than a length behind Queen Kindly in the Lowther Stakes and there is little reason for the form to be reversed.
Roly Poly’s stablemate Brave Anna simply does not have the form in the book to trouble the top three in this race. Pellucid and Holy Cat make up the numbers. They were both beaten in Group 3 races last time and so look up against it in this Group 1.
Lady Aurelia may need to show closer to her Royal Ascot form as opposed to her Deauville form if she is to retain her unbeaten record. She is likely to start the race a shade of odds-on at around 4/5 in the betting market with the local sportsbooks, while Queen Kindly may be close to 3/1 and Roly Poly 5/1.
Lady Aurelia’s target beyond Saturday is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies but she may need to win the Cheveley Park Stakes to justify that engagement and prove she is still on track, after what amounts to a long season for the Kentucky-bred starlet.
Ward has passed a lot of the day-to-day responsibility for the filly’s training to jockey Frankie Dettori who has been looking after her, and riding her in all her work, at The National Stud in Newmarket, England. Ward is looking after his team back home in California and receives upbeat daily videos of the filly from the ebullient Italian.
Dettori, known for his zest for life and optimistic outlook, has been talking the filly up to Ward and neither trainer nor jockey believe their horse can be beaten on Saturday. Fahey, meanwhile, thinks he may have just the right ammunition to take the U.S. filly down.