Aurelia beats Questing to wire


Last year's unbeaten champion two-year-old filly My Miss Aurelia outdueled pro tem divisional leader Questing by a head in Saturday's $971,200 Cotillion Stakes at Parx, in a climactic finish to the first Grade 1 event ever staged in Pennsylvania. The 1 1/16-mile test served up a clash worthy of the occasion -- a virtual match race, with Eclipse Award implications -- and it lived up to the advance billing.

The two had met once before, in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton's My Miss Aurelia drew off to wrap up championship honors, while the British-bred Questing checked in fifth in her U.S. and dirt debut.

Much had changed, however, in the interim. My Miss Aurelia was sidelined by a shin problem, and the Steve Asmussen trainee captured her belated reappearance in the August 8 Mandy's Gold Stakes sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga.

Meanwhile, Questing was developing into a phenom over the summer, and stormed to the top of the three-year-old filly ranks with runaway victories in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama. If the Godolphin filly could extend her streak in the Cotillion, she would likely have clinched the Eclipse Award in her division. But last year's champion had something to say about that.

The speedy Questing, sent off as the 2-5 favorite, took up her customary position on the front end. My Miss Aurelia, the 9-5 second choice, was parked in a stalking second by Corey Nakatani. Although Questing was setting surprisingly slow fractions of :25 and :50 with a clear lead, an ice-cool Nakatani was content to stay right where he was. Moment in Dixie and Dixie Strike rounded out the quartet, but neither made their presence felt against the two principals.

My Miss Aurelia began to take closer order on the far turn, and Questing's margin was down to a half-length when she reached the six-furlong mark in 1:14 3/5. Swinging into the stretch, My Miss Aurelia drew alongside Questing, and the stage was set for a rousing duel.

As both fillies dug in, neither giving an inch, they bumped and brushed with each other. Questing, the 124-pound highweight who was spotting seven pounds to My Miss Aurelia, was holding on by a desperate head in midstretch, but her foe was relentless.
The undefeated filly surged in the final strides to overtake Questing, stopping the teletimer in 1:44 2/5 and returning $5.60 and $2.10. There was no show wagering in the short field.

After a gap of 6 1/2 lengths came Dixie Strike, and another 14 1/2 lengths adrift was Moment in Dixie.

Now a perfect six-for-six, My Miss Aurelia has bankrolled $2,026,000. The daughter of Smart Strike broke her maiden at Saratoga, then showed her battling qualities to best Millionreasonswhy by a neck in the Grade 2 Adirondack. A commanding 5 1/2-length winner of the Grade 1 Frizette next time, she capped her season with a three-length decision in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Bred by co-owner Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings in Kentucky, My Miss Aurelia brought a $550,000 bid from Bolton at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The bay is out of Grade 3-placed stakes heroine My Miss Storm Cat, by Sea of Secrets, who is also responsible for the stakes-placed Albergatti. My Miss Storm Cat is herself a half-sister to Grade 2 victor Soul Warrior.

My Miss Aurelia's third dam is multiple Grade 3 queen Chaldea. This is also the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Cheval Volant and Group 1 One Thousand Guineas vixen Lahan.