TORONTO, September 17, 2020 – On Saturday, trainer Roger Attfield and owner/breeder Charles Fipke will be looking to knock off some big game in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile and earn a fees-paid berth in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Cup Mile with Shirl’s Speight. On Sunday, the same connections will be hoping to land another Grade 1 prize with Lady Speightspeare, who will be making just her second lifetime start but looms as the horse to beat in the $250,000 Natalma Stakes.
The Grade 1 Natalma, a one-mile turf race which attracted seven two-year-old fillies, also is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series with the target race the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Fillies Juvenile Turf at Keeneland on November 6.
Attfield was not surprised when Lady Speightspeare, who like Shirl’s Speight was sired by Speightstown, was in the spotlight in her debut, scoring by 3 ¾ lengths over seven furlongs on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.
The trainer did allow, however, that he was impressed with the flair she showed in her front-running victory.
“I think she probably did it a little more fashionably than I would have expected,” he said.
Last Sunday, Lady Speightspeare turned heads with a five-furlong “breeze” in :58.60 on the training track turf course.
“She worked very, very well,” said the venerable Attfield, who will be seeking his third Natalma title after clicking with future Horse of the Year and Canadian Hall of Famer Alywow in 1993 and with Llanarmon 20 years later.
Emma-Jayne Wilson, who rode Llanaramon, will be eyeing a second Natalma score as she retains the mount on Lady Speightspeare.
Trainer Mark Casse is the all-time leader in Natalma history, having not only fielded seven winners but also been responsible for the top three finishers twice and the exacta on another occasion. Most prominent on that list is Catch A Glimpse, who went to win the BC Juvenile Turf Fillies and become a three-ply Sovereign Award winner including Horse of the Year in 2015.
Casse’s candidate this year is Sleek Lynx, an English-bred whose dam, Sarah Lynx, romped over some formidable opposition when invading from France for the 2011 Canadian International.
Owned by prominent Casse patron Gary Barber, Sleek Lynx will be making just her second career start after finishing a troubled second as the odds-on choice in a one-mile maiden turf tilt at Gulfstream Park on July 23.
“She’s a nice filly – probably should have won her first star,” said Casse. “She’s a filly we’ve been high on since we got her. I didn’t think there was any way she could get beat, but she did. But she’s trained well, and I would expect her to run well.”
Two of Casse’s Natalma winners were maidens going into the race: Sprung (actually a first-time starter, at 48-1) gave the trainer his first Natalma success in 2006 and Victory to Victory his most recent in 2016.
Rafael Hernandez picks up the mount on Sleek Lynx.
Catch A Glimpse has a local stakes race named in her honour and Alda and Dreaming of Drew, the 1-2 finishers in that 6 ½-furlong turf race for two-year-old fillies, are decided threats as they renew hostilities in the Natalma.
Alda, based at Fair Hills, Maryland with trainer Graham Motion, was coming off a maiden win over six furlongs of turf at Belmont when scoring by a nose under Steven Bahen in the Catch A Glimpse.
Bahen won the 1998 Natalma aboard Dance Diane.
Seasons and Stunning Princess, both invading from New York, add intrigue to the Natalma lineup.
Jimmy Toner trains Seasons, who was up in time as the odds-on choice when debuting at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Saratoga in her first and only start on August 9.
Toner won the Grade 2 Dance Smartly with Masseuse back in 2007 but has not had a starter here since 2011.
Luis Contreras, who rode Northern Passion to victory in the 2011 Natalma, will do the honours on Seasons this year.
Stunning Princess is a maiden but has recorded two good second-place finishes in as many starts over 1 1/16 miles of turf at Saratoga for trainer Danny Gargan.
Kazushi Kimura has been engaged for the ride on Stunning Princess. Gargan will be making his debut north of the border.
Rounding out the field will be Big Big Plans, who was an impressive winner over 5 ½ furlongs of Tapeta when debuting with a $25,000 claiming tag.
All starters have been assigned 121 pounds.
The Natalma Stakes is scheduled as the ninth race on Sunday while the companion Grade 1 Summer Stakes is the seventh race. Both Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series races will be broadcast live on TSN2 from 4-6 p.m. ET.
First race post time on Sunday is set for 1:10 p.m. Fans can wager on all the action via HPIbet.com.
FIELD FOR THE GRADE 1 NATALMA STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Stunning Princess – Kazushi Kimura – Danny Gargan
2 – Seasons – Luis Contreras – Jimmy Toner
3 – Sleek Lynx – Rafael Hernandez – Mark Casse
4 – Dreaming of Drew – Justin Stein – Barbara Minshall
5 – Alda – Steven Bahen – Graham Motion
6 – Lady Speightspeare – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Roger Attfield
7 – Big Big Plans – Larry Munoz – Nick Gonzalez
Michael Burns Photo