A late charge by Aurelia’s Belle that appeared to fall just short was transformed into a victory in Churchill Downs’ $111,900 Regret (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf when apparent winner A Little Bit Sassy was disqualified from first and placed fourth after track stewards ruled that the latter had interfered with other horses when she veered out near the finish of Saturday evening’s race.
Making her debut on grass following a ninth-place finish behind Untapable in the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), Aurelia’s Belle and jockey John Velazquez finished a head behind the favored A Little Bit Sassy, but the stewards’ decision provided the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid with her second career stakes victory.
Aurelia’s Belle, the second wagering choice in the field of eight, returned $8.80, $4.60 and $4. Personal Diary, a 12-1 shot ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. who was elevated from third to the runner-up spot, paid $10.20 and $5.80. Kiss Moon, who had finished last of 12 in the Kentucky Oaks in her previous start, was placed third in her grass debut under jockey Corey Lanerie and paid $5.40 to show.
Owned by James F. Miller and trained by Wayne Catalano, Aurelia’s Belle improved her career record to 3-1-2 in seven races and the winner’s purse of $67,297 boosted her lifetime earnings to $253,747. She had scored her earlier stakes victory in the Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Turfway Park.
The winning time for 1 1/8 miles on firm turf was 1:48.02, with internal fractions of :23.40 for a quarter mile, a half-mile in :47.72, six furlongs in 1:11.99 and a mile in 1:35.84.
A Little Bit Sassy stalked the early pace set by Istanford before she surged past that rival and opened a clear lead and had a 1 ½-length advantage over Kiss Moon, the fading Istanford and Personal Diary with an eighth of a mile remaining, while Aurelia’s Belle rallied five-wide.
The leader swerved out as the field entered the final yards and bumped second-place Kiss Moon, who dropped back to fourth, but A Little Bit Sassy managed to hold a narrow head advantage over the fast-closing Aurelia’s Belle at the finish.
But an inquiry by stewards resulted in a decision that the Michael Matz-trained A Little Bit Sassy had interfered with Kiss Moon, who had finished fourth, and the apparent winner was disqualified and placed fourth, while the three horses who had finished immediately behind her were each elevated one spot and Aurelia’s Belle was awarded the victory.
“I had a really good trip, a perfect trip until really late and it looked like I was going to go by her (A Little Bit Sassy),” Velazquez said. “When she got hit, I had to pull away from the other horse and she kind of lost her balance but she still only got beat by a head. It could have gone either way; I don’t even think I got the worst of it.”
Luis Saez, the jockey on A Little Bit Sassy, declined comment on the stewards’ decision.
V V Goodnight finished fifth and was followed by Share the Sugar, Istanford and Tepin. The Regret field was reduced to eight by the late scratches of Stellaris and Handmade.
JOHN VELAZQUEZ, jockey of AURELIA’S BELLE (winner) – “I had a really good trip, a perfect trip until really late and it looked like I was going to go by her. When she got hit, I had to pull away from the other horse and she kind of lost her balance but she still only got beat by a head. It could have gone either way; I don’t even think I got the worst of it. Sometimes you really just don’t know what they are going to think, but honestly I thought my horse was going to have it at the end.”
WAYNE CATALANO, trainer of AURELIA’S BELLE (winner) – “Everything was going well there until we got bumped towards the end and kind of lost our momentum. It was going to be close; we originally only got beat maybe a head, so I thought that they were going to put us up. It’s unfortunate for the other parties, but I’ve been on the other end of it before. I’m not sure what will be next for her but she handled the turf very well and that’s what you have to take away.”
VICTORIA OLIVER, trainer of PERSONAL DIARY (placed second via disqualification) – “I thought she ran great. That’s turf racing and that’s how it happens. But I’m excited that we have a good filly that can compete with this bunch.”
IRAD ORTIZ JR., jockey on PERSONAL DIARY (placed second via disqualification) – “The inside (filly) came out and I had to check a little bit and we lost momentum.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey on KISS MOON (placed third via disqualification) – “The bumping cost us our place. She wasn’t going to win, but she was hanging in there. She ran really well.”