Lady Aurelia workmanlike in Prix Morny
The Wesley Ward pupil had won her first two starts by a combined margin of 14 1/2 lengths – a track record-setting debut romp on the Keeneland dirt, and similar rout in Royal Ascot’s Queen Mary (G2). The Prix Morny marked a step up in trip from five to six furlongs, and a foray against a couple of colts. But that hardly seemed a serious concern in this field, and the pouliche Americaine (“American filly”) was dispatched as the 3-10 favorite.
Although Lady Aurelia burst to her usual lead and controlled proceedings early, jockey Frankie Dettori had to scrub her along the further they went. Tis Marvellous, who chased her in the initial stages, paid the price and ultimately retreated to last. The more conservatively ridden Alrahma stayed on strongly to close much of the gap. Lady Aurelia kept finding enough to stave her off by three-quarters of a length.
Aidan O’Brien’s Peace Envoy, last of the quintet most of the way, finished fastest of all, but too late to do better than third. He missed catching Alrahma by just a head. Al Johrah was another head away in fourth, and Tis Marvellous rounded out the group.
Just to plant a mischievous thought: do you think O’Brien wishes he’d run his top gun Caravaggio here after all? If Lady Aurelia just beats Peace Envoy a length, an in-form Caravaggio must win this.
While the knee-jerk reaction would be to point to the added distance as a factor, Lady Aurelia wasn’t traveling as powerfully, even before the stamina issue could come into play. Contrast this with how she surged across the line in the Queen Mary, not exactly at the end of her tether:
According to Racing Post, Dettori and Ward each cited different reasons for her tighter margin in the Morny.
“She hit two bad patches (of ground) and the second one she put her foot right in a hole and lost all her momentum,” Dettori said. “I won the race by a length but I could have won by three.
“With a sound surface she would have skipped right away. Newmarket will suit her even better.”
Ward revealed a difference in Lady Aurelia’s training regimen:
“Coming into the race we gave her a little break and trained her a little light whereas before (Royal Ascot) she had a race about a month before and so was a little fitter.”
The Morny result didn’t diminish any of Ward’s confidence in the star juvenile.
"To have a filly like this is once in a lifetime,” Ward said. “I think she's going to really show what she's got in the coming few races and we're very excited.”
Next on Ward’s roadmap is the September 24 Cheveley Park (G1) at Newmarket, where she’ll have to be at her peak against a stronger and deeper cast, and over a stiffer six furlongs. That will be an acid test of the distance hypothesis.
Ward added that Lady Aurelia won’t come back to his Keeneland base in the interim, but rather take up residence in England to train for the Cheveley Park. Then she’ll return stateside for a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup.
Her objective at Santa Anita is very much distance-driven, however, as Ward told TDN:
“She’s equally as good on dirt, but the Juvenile Fillies (G1) is over 1 1/16 miles, which I think will be too far for her at this stage. So we will stick to the turf and aim for the (one-mile) Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).”
Photo from Royal Ascot by Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com