The cloudy outlook for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) should clear up soon, beginning with this Sunday’s Natalma Stakes (G1) at Woodbine. A field of eight fillies will try to make their names known in what looks to be an ultra-competitive event.
Local trainer Mark Casse seems to hold a strong hand in this year’s event after already having won it a record seven times, most recently two years ago with Victory to Victory. This year, he has three entries: Diamond Sparkles, Secret Stash, and Coach Lori. Recent maiden winner Diamond Sparkles will make her North American debut after her first two career starts came overseas. She will stay with Casse after this race for a United States campaign. The locally-based Coach Lori will stretch out in distance after breaking her maiden on debut while sprinting 5 furlongs on the turf. Secret Stash is surprisingly entered both here and in the Summer Stakes (G1) against male juveniles, so it’s unknown in which race she will run.
The winner of the Natalma Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Natalma Stakes is one of two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events this Sunday at Woodbine. The other will be the Summers Stakes (G1), which is a “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Turf. One day earlier, on Saturday, there will be three “Win and You’re In” events: the Woodbine Mile (TVG Mile), the Iroquois Stakes (TVG Juvenile), and the Pocahontas Stakes (Juvenile Fillies). The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on September 21 at Parx with the running of the Cotillion Stakes (G1). That race will be a “Win and You’re In” event for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
The field from the rail out includes: Walk in Marrakesh, Diamonds Sparkles, Fair Maiden, Runway Dreamer, Saratoga Vision, Coach Lori, Secret Stash, and Abscond.
#1 Walk in Marrakesh – Trainer Mark Johnston brings this filly over from Europe after compiling three wins in five starts. Two races back, she won the British Stallion Studs E. B. F. Star Stakes at Sandown Park before finishing third in the Shadwell Prix du Calvados (G2) at Deauville. She ships in having faced tough competition in those overseas events, so this field should not intimidate her.
Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers
#3 Fair Maiden – It’s always a good sign when leading California jockey Flavien Prat gets aboard a horse for the first time and it happens in a stakes race. Two races back, she broke her maiden impressively at Arlington Park, which led to a start in the local Catch A Glimpse Stakes last time out. She was once again able to pick up a victory in that spot, which is the local prep for this race. This is her obvious next step.
#2 Diamonds Sparkles – The daughter of War Front will make her North American debut after winning a novice stakes at Thirsk last time out. After that, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber privately purchased her and sent her to Mark Casse. This will begin her campaign in North America, where she is scheduled to stay for the remainder of her career.
#8 Abscond – This will mark her third different race track in as many starts. She broke her maiden at first asking in an Ellis Park maiden special weight before finishing second in the Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga next time out. The experience that she gained should help with yet another new turf course.
#6 Coach Lori – Her lone start coming into this race was an impressive maiden special weight win at Woodbine, going 5 furlongs on the turf. She came on late and the margin of victory was a neck, so perhaps she needed a longer distance than that, which is what she’ll get here.
#7 Secret Stash – Another filly making her North American debut for trainer Mark Casse, she won last time out in a maiden race at Bellewstown. She seems to have ability, but how she handles the new racing conditions will be the major question mark.
#5 Saratoga Vision – This is another maiden taking a big swing in a Grade 1 event, but she has made seven starts to date. After six failed attempts against maiden special weight foes, she actually competed in the Catch A Glimpse Stakes last time out at this track, finishing third. This race will be an even bigger test.
#4 Runway Dreamer – It’s always a tall task for a maiden to jump up into Grade 1 company, but Runway Dreamer will give it a shot. She has just one start under her belt, a fourth-place finish in a local maiden special weight going a mile on the turf. This will be a major challenge.