Victory to Victory kept a Natalma Stakes streak alive for the Mark Casse stable here Sunday, rallying to capture the one-mile turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a convincing 2 ¼ lengths.
The $253,400 Natalma, a Grade 1 race for the first time this year, also was a ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies over one mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
Catch a Glimpse, who won last year’s Natalma for Casse, went on to take the Breeders’ Cup race and was Canada’s horse of the year, champion turf female and champion 3-year-old filly.
Victory to Victory, a maiden after two starts heading into the Natalma, will now be looking to follow on the Breeders’ Cup road. The Casse outfit, which also had won the 2014 Natalma with My Conquestadory and four earlier editions of the race, also was represented this year by Thora Barber, Black Canary, and Enstone. But it was Victory to Victory who carried the day as Florent Geroux, who just happens to be Catch A Glimpse’s regular partner, worked out a good trip for the filly after beginning from the No. 13 post in the field of 14.
Will She assumed command shortly after the start and led through fractions of :22.69, and :45.37 and 1:10.42 while stalked by invader Red Lodge.
Meanwhile, Victory to Victory was clear on the outside and was moving steadily as Will She began to weaken and was overtaken by Red Lodge turning for home. Victory to Victory continued to progress, and was in front with just over a furlong to run just as a new threat emerged in Stormy Perfection on the far outside. Stormy Perfection drew within a half-length of Victory to Victory and while her stout bid was in vain she easily held second, 1 ½ lengths clear of third-place Clear the Benchmark, a Saratoga shipper who closed on the inside in a good effort. Victory to Victory covered the mile in 1:35.24.
Thora Barber, at 25-1, was off slowly but closed to finish fourth with Erin Commodity, Tapa Tapa Tapa, Black Canary, Cold Hearted Pearl, Lapinski, I’ll Take the Cake, Conquest Rapiduno, 7-2 favorite Red Lodge, Will She and the 4-1 second choice Enstone completing the order of finish.
Victory to Victory, owned by Live Oak Plantation, made her first start at Saratoga at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass but then shipped here to finish a close second in the seven-furlong turf prep for the Natalma on Aug. 2 while racing with blinkers for the first time.
That experience over the local course, plus the addition of blinkers, may have made the difference on Saturday.
“She broke very sharply from the gate,” said Geroux. “From there we got a nice position, without taking any bumping or anything. Turning for home she gave me a very nice kick.”
Norman Casse, assistant and son to Mark Casse, sent out Victory to Victory for the Natalma.
“I think the blinkers made a big difference today,” said Casse. “We knew she was a very talented horse, and she’s finally starting to figure things out.”
Luis Contreras, who rode Stormy Perfection, had praise for his mount’s effort.
“She’s a really nice filly and she tried so hard,” said Contreras. “There was a decent pace in the race and the horse that won the other stake (Good Samaritan, Sunday’s Summer) came from last so I was pretty confident I was in good position.
“I knew when I asked her, she would give me everything. At mid-stretch I thought we were going to win but the winner had a little bit more.”
A homebred who races for Live Oak Plantation, Victory to Victory is out of Points of Grace, who was Canada’s Sovereign Award-winning turf female in 2009. The Florida-bred picked up $150,000 for her timely first victory.
Victory to Victory returned $17.70, $8.30 and $5.70 and combined with 14-1 shot Stormy Perfection ($11.80, $8.30) for a 13-10 exactor worth $205.90. The 13-10-8 triactor with 4-1 third choice Beat the Benchmark ($4.50) returned $649.40 and the 13-10-8-2 superfecta completed by 27-1 Thora returned a healthy $5,791.90 for $1.