Lady Aurelia run down by O’Brien duo Brave Anna, Roly Poly at Newmarket

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

September 24th, 2016

Saturday’s Cheveley Park (G1) was a referendum on Lady Aurelia: would the Wesley Ward star see out the demanding six furlongs at Newmarket, or would the combination of course and distance prove too much for the speedball?

Lady Aurelia was the principal voter in this election, and she cast her ballot in the manner of a five-furlong machine who’s not terribly interested in rationing out her speed. She got away with it over Deauville’s kinder six furlongs in the Prix Morny (G1), but not here.

After blazing the trail early, the 4-6 favorite began to tire, and had little left as Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Brave Anna and Roly Poly swooped to fight out the finish. Brave Anna just nipped her stablemate to top the all-War Front exacta. Lady Aurelia checked in a further two lengths adrift in third, rounding out the Kentucky-bred trifecta.

Brave Anna, a full sister to last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) hero Hit It a Bomb, was overlooked at 25-1. I underestimated her myself. Brave Anna hadn’t done anything to enhance her reputation since springing a 16-1 upset of the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot. That result that looked like a one-off, since she was subsequently a well-beaten sixth in the Debutante (G2) and Moyglare Stud (G1). Perhaps reverting to six furlongs helped, but even so, it took a deal of imagination to see her upstaging them.

Roly Poly, at 11-2, was the more logical of the two as the Duchess of Cambridge (G2) winner and Lowther (G2) runner-up. Still, there wasn’t a compelling case for Roly Poly to overturn the Lowther form with Queen Kindly, who appeared the main threat to Lady Aurelia on Saturday. If anything, the Lowther could come in for questioning after its beaten favorite, Fair Eva, was sunk again in Friday’s Rockfel (G2) at Newmarket – by an unheralded French shipper named Spain Burg.

Queen Kindly, who stalked Lady Aurelia early alongside Roly Poly, came under pressure to keep up. Just at the time when the Frankel filly would normally have kicked into gear, she was sputtering and wound up a well-beaten fourth. Queen Kindly failed to make the top three for the first time, but in a more conventionally run race, she’s eligible to bounce back. Trainer Richard Fahey thinks a lot of the blueblood, and I’m not ready to give up on her yet.

Of course, Ward has been in raptures over Lady Aurelia, and forecast “her best ever race” in the Cheveley Park. Had she been a little less exuberant early, she may have pulled it off. There’s still time for her to learn to harness her speed, but it could well be that she’s just happier as a pure speed merchant.

If so, I’d much prefer Ward to point for the five-furlong King’s Stand (G1), rather than the six-furlong Commonwealth Cup (G1), at Royal Ascot next June. Although the King’s Stand is versus older horses, Lady Aurelia would get all the weight breaks as a three-year-old filly – over the same course and distance as her sensational Queen Mary (G2) this summer.

The fact that Ward was already talking about 2017 Royal Ascot in the Cheveley Park postrace quotes was a big, flashing warning sign about her Breeders’ Cup status. Sure enough, Ward told Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen that the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) is off Lady Aurelia’s agenda.

Brave Anna is a possible Breeders’ Cup participant. Aside from the obvious pedigree angle as Hit It a Bomb’s sister, O’Brien mentioned that Santa Anita was now under consideration.

Yet Roly Poly might be the one to follow coming out of the Cheveley Park. Out of classic winner and four-time Group 1 star Misty for Me, Roly Poly chased Lady Aurelia’s pace, and unlike Queen Kindly, didn’t come unglued. Staying on well in the closing stages, Roly Poly was nabbed by the more patiently ridden Brave Anna.

As a barometer of how quick Lady Aurelia went, compare her fractions to those carved out by the two-year-old colt The Last Lion, who wired the Middle Park (G1) over the same track and trip one race later:


The Last Lion, a 25-1 longshot, was making his 10th start of a busy season that began with a victory in the Brocklesby back on April 2. No match for Blue Point when third in the Gimcrack (G2), the Mark Johnston juvenile determinedly repelled that hot favorite to gain revenge in the Middle Park.

An admirably consistent type, The Last Lion won the Sirenia (G3) on Kempton’s Polytrack as well as the Dragon at Sandown and placed in the Norfolk (G2), Molecomb (G3), and Flying Childers (G2) last out. Johnston indicated he’d get a long holiday now and prepare for next spring’s 2000 Guineas (G1) back over Newmarket’s Rowley Mile.

Kicking off the stakes action was the one-mile Royal Lodge (G2), where Godolphin’s Best of Days rallied, then just held on from O’Brien’s maiden The Anvil. Unsurprisingly, Best of Days won’t be taking up the “Win and You’re In” offer for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The ground was plenty quick enough for him here, and when missing narrowly in the Acomb (G3) at York, so Santa Anita isn’t in the picture. Trainer Hugo Palmer’s looking ahead to the 2017 Epsom Derby (G1) trail.

There is a potential Breeders’ Cup tie-in, though: Acomb winner Syphax has been mentioned as a Juvenile Turf candidate by trainer Kevin Ryan. The Kentucky-bred son of Arch and Much Obliged has since been scooped up by Godolphin, so plans are fluid.