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Mike previews the 2022 Natalma Stakes (G1) at Woodbine, then gives his top picks and longshots from this “Win & You’re In” for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Cairo Consort is the morning line favorite following her dominating Catch A Glimpse Stakes score here last time out, but trainer Kevin Attard saddles a trio of tough challengers with upset on their minds. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Cairo Consort, a 2-year-old daughter of Cairo Prince-Absolutely Awesome, will face seven rookie rivals in the Grade 1 $500,000 Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes, Saturday at Woodbine.
The one-mile Natalma is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series with the winner receiving a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland on November 4.
Cairo Consort, conditioned by Nathan Squires for owner William B. Thompson Jr., brings a two-race win streak into her latest engagement.
On July 23, the grey, bred in Kentucky by Frankfort Park Farm, broke her maiden in what was her third start, maintaining a 1 ½-length lead at the stretch call for the milestone win at 6 ½ panels on the E.P. Taylor.
One race later, on August 20, she was back in the winner’s circle, this time in the Catch a Glimpse Stakes. Under Antonio Gallardo, who will be in the irons on Saturday, Cairo Consort rallied to hold a half-length advantage at the stretch call, going on to notch a 2 ½-length triumph in another 6 ½-furlong sprint over the E.P. Taylor.
“She is a laid-back filly, but always gives her heart when the gate opens,” said Squires. “It’s a joy to watch her run. She’s run extremely well in those past two races.”
Cairo Consort took to the Toronto oval Tapeta on May 28 for her career bow, a 5-furlong dash that resulted in a fourth-place finish. One race later, on July 2, she was fourth, 2 ½ lengths back of winner Wickenheiser, whom she’ll meet again in the Natalma.
Squires knew early on that he had a talented pupil in his barn.
“She is all that we expected and more,” he said of the $95,000 purchase at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale. “But you never know until they run. It doesn’t matter what they show you in the mornings, you don’t exactly know what they are and how good they are until they run. But I always had high expectations of her from the time she was a yearling. She was high on the list for Mr. Thompson and myself and we’re very lucky to have her.”
A former assistant to the late Laurie Silvera, Squires put in plenty of homework ahead of the sale. He was even more impressed once he saw the filly in person and after he heard what others had to say.
“She’s very athletic looking and that was one of many things that I learned, the conformation of a horse, from Laurie. He would take me around and made sure I learned, and I wanted to learn. I wasn’t just interested in the training part and the pedigrees. I wanted to know about the conformation, what you could live with and what you couldn’t live with. He pointed out a lot of things to me, which I use when I go to the sales. And she is a perfect example of that. I do a lot of research and remember what Laurie taught me, which really helps me. When I saw her, she just stood out.”
A video of Cairo Consort, well before her first race, caught Squires’ attention.
“I tell this story and I’m pretty certain not everyone believes me. She was training at Big Easy in Ocala in December, and the couple who run the farm, Bobby and Trish, they do a fantastic job. They sent me videos of her being broke, running around in a small field, and getting prepared for her eventual racing career. One day, they sent me a video of her running in a field and there was a low-lying branch. Bobby stopped her under the tree and broke off the branch – it wasn’t a twig, a good-sized branch – and it made a big sound. But she just stood there like an old pony. Most horses, even older Thoroughbreds, it would have scared them. But not her. She’s always had that same demeanor. She’s fearless.”
At certain times, Cairo Consort can also be feared.
There are two things in particular she has no time for.
“She looks like an athlete, and she also has that competitive fire. She walks around the barn so calm, head down, and so relaxed. But she is not without her temper. She doesn’t like being tied to the wall for grooming and she doesn’t like to be brushed on her right side. She will give you a fight.”
Squires hopes that fighting spirit will be on display when Cairo Consort stretches out in distance and tackles top first-year fillies in the Natalma.
He has faith his young star will step up on the big stage.
“I was in this race last year with Guileful (who finished sixth). I think our chances this year are a bit better. The way she ran last time and the way she is training into the race, I think we should have as good a shot as any.”
Kevin Attard will be represented by the trio of Courtly Ro, Last Call, and Wickenheiser.
Courtly Ro, a daughter of Cairo Prince-Victoire, finished third in her career bow and followed it up with a maiden-breaking performance on August 20.
“She’s very nice,” said Attard. “We’ve always been very excited about her. With the extra distance, that should actually help her out as well.”
“Last Call is a maiden, who ran very well first time out,” continued Attard, of the daughter of English Channel-Over Served, owned by X-Men Racing 2 LLC and SF Racing LLC. “She should get better with a little age and distance. She’s doing really well so we’re going to give her a chance.”
The conditioner, who notched his first Queen’s Plate win with Moira this August, completes his Natalma ‘tri’ with Wickenheiser, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid-Game (FR).
Owned by Clay Scherer, Al and Bill Ulwelling, and Partner, the bay was bred in Ontario by Sean Fitzhenry.
“She won her first race and she’s bred to run all day long,” noted Attard. “She was a little disappointing [fifth] in the Catch a Glimpse Stakes, but I’m just hoping the shorter distance [6 ½ furlong] compromised her. Stretching out to a mile should benefit her greatly.”
Mark Casse, who has a record seven Natalma crowns to his name, will send out Adora and Star Candy.
First race post time on Saturday is set for 1:10 p.m. Fans can wager on all the action via HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Cairo Consort – Antonio Gallardo – Nathan Squires
2 – Collecting Flatter – Justin Stein – Josie Carroll
3 – G Laurie – Manuel Franco – Graham Motion
4 – Last Call – Rafael Hernandez – Kevin Attard
5 – Adora – Patrick Husbands – Mark Casse
6 – Wickenheiser – Luis Contreras – Kevin Attard
7 – Courtly Ro – Kazushi Kimura – Kevin Attard
8 – Star Candy – Declan Carroll – Mark Casse
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