Updated on 05/07/2011 4:34PM

Churchill Distaff Turf Mile: Aviate flies down stretch

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Tom Keyser
Aviate, Kent Desormeaux aboard, takes the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Aviate finished full of run down the center of the course to hand Aruna her first U.S defeat in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile.

Aviate led a one-two-three finish in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile by fillies who began their careers in Europe. The result of the race and comments by the winning connections suggest the turf course was on the softer side rather than firm as it was officially designated prior to the race.

Aviate, a homebred daughter of Dansilli owned by Juddmonte Farms, was a Group 3 winner in England at 3 and had even ventured into Group 1 company prior to being turned over to trainer Bill Mott for the 2011 season. She had made just one previous start in this country prior to the Distaff Turf Mile, finishing third in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Honey Fox on March 5.

Rating near the rear of the field off the early pace of longshot Kiss Mine, Aviate commenced her rally midway on the second bend, angled well wide outside Aruna for the drive, and flew past the leaders to a 1 1/2-length victory under jockey Kent Desormeaux. Aruna raced well placed from the outset, drifted out a bit through midstretch while attempting to run with the winner, but proved no match while finishing a neck in front of the late-striding Fantasia.

Aruna had won all three of her U.S. starts, culminating with a victory in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs last November.
Never Retreat, the tepid 7-2 favorite, was never a factor, finishing sixth in a field of nine older fillies and mares. Vivo Per Lei was a late scratch after injuring herself in the starting gate.

Aviate completed the distance in 1:36.67 and paid $13.20.

“She needed a race to get untracked, and this was a different surface today than she raced on the last time at Gulfstream Park,” Mott said. “The course was speed favoring down there, but this one had just enough cut in the ground to give a closer a chance.”

Desormeaux, who won a pair of stakes on Friday’s Oaks card, agreed with Mott about the condition of the course.

“She got a clean trip and she’s a light filly, which helped her skip over the top of the wet course a lot easier than some of the heavier fillies in the race,” Desormeaux said. “She really enjoyed the softer going.”

Mott said he would likely point Aviate for the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont on June 11.