03/14/2013 3:45PM

Oaklawn Park: Azeri marks My Miss Aurelia's start to 2013 campaign

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Barbara D. Livingston
My Miss Aurelia, who has been training in California, will launch her 4-year-old campaign in Saturday's $150,000 Azeri at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – My Miss Aurelia’s path toward a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic gets started Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The champion is part of a seven-horse field for the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri, which will be her first start of the year following a 3-year-old season in which she finished second to Royal Delta in the Ladies’ Classic at Santa Anita.

The Azeri, which will be run over 1 1/16 miles, is a stepping-stone to the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap here April 12. Others set to start Saturday include Don’t Tell Sophia, who has won the meet’s first two route stakes for fillies and mares, and Tiz Miz Sue, the defending champ in the Azeri.

My Miss Aurelia, who has been working in Southern California, had been under consideration for the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita on Saturday. But the decision was made to go in the Azeri for a couple of different reasons, said Steve Asmussen, who trains the filly for Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton.

“This is the right starting point for her right now,” he said.

Asmussen noted the Azeri distance is favorable for My Miss Aurelia for her first start of the year, compared with the 1 1/8-mile trip of the Santa Margarita. Another factor is that My Miss Aurelia will get in lighter at Oaklawn, carrying 119 pounds compared with the 123 she would have had to tote at Santa Anita over a longer distance.

My Miss Aurelia, who was the champion 2-year-old of 2011 for a 4-for-4 season in which she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Frizette, last raced Dec. 26 and was third, beaten a half-length, in the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita. She has since been working sharply for her return, among her moves a bullet six furlongs in 1:10.60 on March 4.

“She’s a champion and she trains like one,” Asmussen said. “She’s been very impressive.”

My Miss Aurelia will be moving back to two turns, which should serve her well Saturday. The last time she routed, she finished 1 1/2 lengths behind champion Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup and earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

“Obviously, her record indicates she’s proven to be better at two turns,” said Asmussen, who has given the mount to Corey Nakatani.

Don’t Tell Sophia has made the Oaklawn meet her coming out party. She won the first stakes race of her career in the $75,000 Pippin on Jan. 19 by a dominant seven lengths. Don’t Tell Sophia came back and took the $100,000 Bayakoa on Feb. 16 by six lengths, with a career-high Beyer of 100.

“Her last race was wonderful,” said Phil Sims, who co-owns and trains Don’t Tell Sophia. “The competition was pretty tough, but she just did it so nicely. We’re hoping she can put another one together like that.”

Sims said Don’t Tell Sophia has thrived at Oaklawn, liking both the surface here and her life in Hot Springs. She is unbeaten on dirt, going 4 for 4 on the surface with her other wins coming at Churchill Downs and Hoosier.

Tiz Miz Sue made her first start since October in the Bayakoa and ran third to Don’t Tell Sophia.

“I expect improvement,” said Steve Hobby, who trains Tiz Miz Sue. “She always has second out. I think we’ll go forward.”

Songs and Sonnets, a daughter of the multiple Grade 3-winning mare Bedanken, enters off an eight-length allowance win for which she earned a Beyer of 90. Garrett Gomez has the mount for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.