10/09/2010 1:22PM

After battling Saratoga turf bias, Aruna ready for Pebbles


ELMONT, N.Y. – Though she only won by a head, Aruna’s victory in a first-level allowance race on closing day at Saratoga impressed her trainer Graham Motion quite a bit.

With only one horse beaten at the top of the stretch, Aruna rallied to win the one-mile race in her first start in four months and first in North America. She ran a final quarter-mile in under 23 seconds to get the win over a course that had become extremely speed-favoring.

“I couldn’t believe she was able to win from there to be honest,” Motion said. “Nothing had done that in the last 10 days at Saratoga. Certainly, I was impressed.”

Motion hopes to be equally impressed on Monday when Aruna steps into stakes company in the $100,000 Pebbles, the Columbus Day feature at Belmont Park. A field of 10 was entered for the Pebbles, scheduled for one mile on the Widener turf course.

Aruna, owned and bred by Donald Harrison’s Flaxman Stable, made the first five starts of her career in France for trainer Jonathan Pease. She only won once, but her last race there, the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary in which Aruna finished sixth, was quite the key race.

Sarafina, who won the Saint-Alary, went on to win the Group 1 French Oaks. Hibaayeb, third in the Saint-Alary, came to the U.S. last week and won the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Hollywood Park. Deluxe, the Saint-Alary runner-up, recently won a listed stakes at Longchamp.

Meanwhile, Aruna has impressed Motion with her training since the allowance win at Saratoga.

“She’s done well since, she’s had a couple of nice works,” said Motion, who has Ramon Dominguez to ride.

Aruna is listed as the 4-1 second choice behind Neon Light, a German-bred filly who finished seventh, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga on July 28. She was purchased privately following that race by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on behalf of a new owner, Sheila Rosenbloom.

McLaughlin said it took a while to get the deal done, which is why Neon Light doesn’t show a workout in August. She breezed three times leading to this, including a four-furlong move in 47.88 seconds over the Belmont on turf on Sept. 26 in which she worked head-and-head with the 2-year-old stakes winning male Soldat, according to McLaughlin.

Grecian Maiden, Profiteroles, and Bet on the Blue, the top three finishers from the Twin Lights at Monmouth on Sept. 4, all ship in for this.