04/13/2017 10:00AM

Lady Aurelia prepping for Royal Ascot in Giant's Causeway

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
The 3-year-old Lady Aurelia faces older females in the Giant's Causeway on Saturday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Lady Aurelia was no secret when she debuted almost exactly one year ago at Keeneland, and she delivered as the favorite, romping by 7 1/2 lengths and setting a short-lived track record.

Lady Aurelia returns to Keeneland with a Cartier Award as Europe’s outstanding juvenile female under her belt. The 3-year-old filly has been favored in each of her starts, and that won’t change Saturday, as she looms large against elders in an overflow field for the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf course.

Lady Aurelia’s connections – owners Stonestreet Farm, George Bolton, and Peter Leidel and trainer Wesley Ward – intend for the race to serve as a prep before a return trip to England’s renowned Royal Ascot meeting for the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes in June. Last year, Lady Aurelia won Royal Ascot’s Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes by seven lengths.

“I think it’s important to show the breadth and the speed of the American bloodstock and make people want to come over here and buy our yearlings,” Stonestreet principal Barbara Banke said.

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After her Royal Ascot victory, Lady Aurelia captured the Group 1 Prix Morny Stakes in France, then finished third, beaten two lengths, in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in England. The Giant’s Causeway will mark her first start since the Cheveley Park on Sept. 24. She has trained strongly in recent weeks, with two breezes in company on the Keeneland turf.

Lady Aurelia will face two mares looking to continue win streaks in Pretty Perfection and Rapid Rhythm as well as defending race winner Exaggerated.

Following a layoff of more than a year and a trainer switch to Kelly Breen, Pretty Perfection went winless in three starts in 2016. She has come out roaring this year, winning three straight at Gulfstream Park, most recently the Captiva Island Stakes on March 11.

Rapid Rhythm, trained by Michael Stidham, has won three consecutive stakes, most recently prevailing by a neck in the Mardi Gras Stakes on Feb. 28 at Fair Grounds.

Exaggerated won five of her first seven starts, including the Giant’s Causeway by 1 1/2 lengths on this course last year. But she lost her next two and hasn’t raced since finishing eighth in the White Oak Farm Stakes last June at Pimlico.

“She needed a break last year, and I didn’t feel the Florida program was right for her, and I gave her an extended break,” trainer Arnaud Delacour said. “It is a tough race, but you have to start somewhere to get ready for a summer campaign. She is doing very well.”