Conquest Stables’ Conquest Harlanate, with Patrick Husbands, needed every foot of the lengthy E.P. Taylor Turf Course stretch before collaring favoured Isabella Sings near the wire to win the co-featured $228,800 Natalma Stakes Saturday at Woodbine.
Named for the dam of Canada’s most famous thoroughbred, Northern Dancer, the Natalma drew a dozen two-year-old fillies in the one mile turf test, with a Breeders’ Cup berth on the line. The winner received an all-expenses paid trip to Santa Anita for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Friday, October 31.
It was the fifth Natalma win for trainer Mark Casse, who also won with Sprung (2006), Clearly Foxy (2007), Northern Passion (2011) and Spring Venture (2012).
Two longshots, Green Doctor and Appeal to the Win, battled it out early over the ‘good turf’, through fractions of :23.29 and :46.94.
In behind the top pair off the far turn were Isabella Sings, with Corey Nakatani, while Conquest Harlanate followed. When the field turned for home, the Todd Pletcher-trained Isabella Sings took over but was immediately challenged by her foe on the outside.
The stretch run turned into a two-horse race, with Conquest Harlanate prevailing by just a neck on the line, getting the distance in 1:40.61. It was two lengths further back to longshot Skinner Box in third.
“We do a lot of work in the mornings teaching babies how to track horses and run them down,” said Husbands. “She left there pretty sharp so I took her back. She relaxed. Then I realized Corey may be getting too far (ahead). I didn’t want to pull the trigger too early but I realized I was running out of real estate. So she fought, fought, fought and got the job done.”
Conquest Stables, the nom de course for Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell, have spent a lot of money in the past few years buying expensive yearlings. Conquest Harlanate, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday-Allison’s Pride, was a $120,000 purchase at the 2013 Keeneland Select sale, but is a Canadian-bred from Windhaven Farm.
“We’re in,” said Semersky, about going onto California for the Breeders’ Cup. “Hopefully we’re going to be in a lot of times. We’ve got a lot ready to run. We’ve got a great trainer, a great team. It was an incredible ride by Patrick, he positioned ‘Harlanate’ perfectly. She may not be the best filly we have but she sure showed something today.”
As the 6-1 fourth choice, Conquest Harlanate, who picked up $144,000 for the win, more than her purchase price, paid $15.10, $6.70 and $4.20, combining with Isabella Sings ($4.70, $3.70) for a $59.80 (7-10) exactor. A 7-10-6 (Skinner Box, $11.40) triactor returned $737.20 while a $1 Superfecta [7-10-6-9 (Dixie Twist)] was worth $1,881.15.