Siding with experience over youth (Lady Aurelia) in Giant's Causeway

April 15th, 2017

There was a time, many moons ago, when running star three-year-olds against older horses early in the season was something not to be shunned. Citation famously won the Seminole H. (seven-furlong edition) at Hialeah over Hall of Fame stablemate Armed prior to sweeping the 1948 Triple Crown. Several years earlier, future champion Devil Diver prepped for the Kentucky Derby (G1) by winning the Phoenix H. at Keeneland, famously knocking off the previous year's Triple Crown winner Whirlaway. And before that, Stagehand beat Seabiscuit by a nose in the Santa Anita H.

As a general proposition, though, there's a reason we don't see it very often these days at this time of the year outside of maiden races at Oaklawn. The older horses have the maturity edge, and often an experience one, too.

Lady Aurelia is a very talented racehorse. One of Europe's best juvenile fillies last season, she's pointing for a return trip to Royal Ascot in June to compete in the King's Stand (G1) against males over five furlongs. She'll be prepping for that Saturday afternoon at Keeneland in the $100,000 Giant's Causeway against older fillies and mares.

The up-and-coming star might actually prove better than her elders, none of whom are world beaters, but at 6-5 on the morning line she's an awful wagering proposition taking on this kind of field this early in the season. Among the logical alternatives are Exaggerated, who won this race at odds of 10-1 a year ago but is coming off a layoff dating back to June. Pretty Perfection comes in off three straight wins at Gulfstream, though she's being asked to tote 125 pounds. Wesley Ward, who trains Lady Aurelia, even has Ruby Notion coming in the right way following a closing third to Pretty Perfection in the $75,000 Captiva Island.

I'm ultimately going to stand against Lady Aurelia with Triple Chelsea (#2, 12-1), who's traded decisions with Pretty Perfection since December, besting her in the $100,000 Lightning City at Tampa Bay Downs. Third to that rival in the January 28 Ladies Turf Sprint at Gulfstream, Triple Chelsea comes in fresh with a strong string of works at Tampa Bay Downs. The ex-claimer has turned into a different horse since moving to the grass last summer, and her closing kick figures to be more effective at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Having already written about taking the long view on Souper Tapit in the Lexington (G3), here are other horses of interest on Saturday's card.

Race 4 -- Tasteful is the likely favorite off a debut second at Gulfstream, while Darlin'issues and Connected Fitness both look like well-meant firsters with solid pedigrees. I do think Rocket Girl (#1, 5-1), a daughter of Uncle Mo, endured a rough trip at Fair Grounds in her debut on turf, and might prove even better for trainer Brad Cox switching to dirt here.

Race 5 - Musical America (#7, 4-1) improved quite a bit on turf at Tampa over the winter after a dull dirt debut at Laurel last fall, but I'm willing to give him another chance on the main track in this entry-level allowance as a son of Malibu Moon and Pussycat Doll

At Oaklawn on the Arkansas Derby (G1) undercard, I look for Hard Fought (#7, 15-1) to show some improvement stretching out around two turns in Race 6, a maiden for three-year-olds. The son of Hard Spun and Grade 1-placed Miss Netta split the field in his six-furlong debut for a barn not known for getting first-out winners.

(John Duca/SV Photography)