05/05/2011 1:42PM

Churchill Downs: Aruna faces tall order in Distaff Turf Mile


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With all the attention being paid to his horses in the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, the fact that trainer Graham Motion also has a pretty good filly entered in Saturday’s $300,000 Distaff Turf Mile might get a little overlooked this weekend. But Motion is extremely high on Aruna, who figures to go postward as one of the choices in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf, despite making her 2011 debut against a very competitive field.

Aruna won all three of her U.S. starts after joining Motion’s stable last summer. She overcame a track bias to win a first-level allowance race at Saratoga before stepping up to capture the Pebbles and Grade 2 Mrs. Revere to close out the season.

“There was no reason for the layoff other than to give her a break,” Motion said. “Her first race was extraordinary over the speed-favoring course at Saratoga, and she really didn’t do much wrong the rest of the year. This is a very tough spot to come back in, but she’s ready. I just hope the turf course is not too soft. It’s tough for a horse to come back on a real soft turf course.”

Aruna will have to be at the top of her game to beat a field that includes Breeders’ Cup winner Tapitsfly, the red-hot Upperline, and arch-rivals Fantasia and Never Retreat.

Tapitsfly appears to be rounding back to her top form while returning to stakes company for the first time since winning the 2009 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf. Tapitsfly led throughout to defeat high-priced optional claimers at Gulfstream in her last start.

Upperline has won three of her last four starts, all stakes, including the Grade 3 Arlington Park Oaks at 3. Fantasia and Never Retreat have split their last two decisions, the latter coming out nearly two lengths the best when the pair last met in Keeneland’s Jenny Wiley on April 16.