05/26/2012 5:15PM

Belmont: After rough start for some, Aruna proves best in Sheepshead Bay

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Aruna, with Ramon Dominguez riding, wins the Sheepshead Bay.

ELMONT, N.Y. - In an eventful renewal of the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay Stakes, Aruna made a strong move to the lead around the far turn and then persevered to a 1 1/4-length victory at Belmont Park.

Hit It Rich, who sat second early behind runaway leader Aqsaam, held second by one-half length over Mystical Star, who finished one-half length ahead of Principal Role.

Mystical Star, however, was disqualified from third and placed last by the stewards after she broke through the gate prematurely. Though she broke inward and spotted the field several lengths, Mystical Star was deemed by the stewards to have "opened the starting gate doors and left the gate early." But since the stewards also ruled that Mystical Star "caused her own problem," she was not declared a non-starter.

Magical Cat, who was in the stall next to Mystical Star, was declared a non-starter after she was ruled to have been in the hands of the assistant starter when the gates opened. Money wagered on Magical Cat was refunded.

While it could be argued that Mystical Star ran the best race, it was Aruna who was a deserving winner, earning her seventh win from 15 lifetime starts and her fourth U.S. stakes victory.

Ramon Dominguez had Aruna in fourth along the inside while Aqsaam, under Rosie Napravnik, sped off to a double-digit length lead through fractions of 22.80 seconds, 47.34, and 1:13.22. At that point, Aruna was 12 lengths off the pace.

Around the far turn, Dominguez made a powerful move to Aqsaam and inhaled her by the quarter pole.

Dominguez kept busy on Aruna to get her to the wire first, covering 1 3/8 miles in 2:15.47 over ground labeled good. Aruna, trained by Graham Motion for Flaxman Holdings, returned $6.10 as the favorite.

Dominguez said he felt he had to move when he did or risk getting caught behind a tiring horse and perhaps boxed in.

"I was very happy with where I was on the rail and she was pretty handy, but realistically, the horse in front of me was starting to slow down and there was the filly outside of me," Dominguez said. "I had to really take a shot and go through at that moment, which I did. I was a little concerned it would compromise my filly, but she kept on coming for me, so I was very happy."

Aruna won for the first time since she took the Grade 1 Spinster last October at Keeneland. She was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and, most recently, last in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley.

"In her last two races we just tried taking her out of it too much in the Breeders' Cup and Jenny Wiley," Motion said. "She's a much more settled filly this year, we don't have to worry about [relaxing]. She's every bit as good as she was last year - she's just had two unlucky runs."