09/15/2011 11:32AM

Woodbine: Casse goes four-deep in Natalma


ETOBICOKE, Ontario —Trainer Mark Casse will run four nice prospects – Northern Passion, Sky Dreamer, Spirited Miss, and Quality Lass – in Saturday’s $200,000 Natalma, a one-mile turf stakes at Woodbine. The Grade 3 event for 2-year-old fillies is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race, with the winner gaining inclusion and a paid trip to the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

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Northern Passion received an 81 Beyer Speed Figure when she won her debut in a maiden special sprint. In her only other start, also on Polytrack, she rallied strongly to finish second to the gifted Tu Endie Wei in the 6 1/2-furlong Ontario Debutante Stakes.

“She’s like a dream,” said Casse. “She does everything right. I think she could be any kind. I don’t think that she’ll have any problem with the grass. A big race from her might send her to the Breeders’ Cup. If not, we have the Princess Elizabeth Stakes to fall back on.”

Sky Dreamer had traffic problems before winning her debut in a six-furlong maiden special on the turf.

“I loved her the day that she won,” Casse said. “She had trained like a good horse. She got into all kinds of trouble.”

Spirited Miss also rallied to win her only outing in a six-furlong maiden special on turf, receiving a 75 Beyer.

“She was impressive,” said Casse, who has won the Natalma twice. “She got away slowly, got in trouble, and ran a big race, in 1:09.”

Quality Lass, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, is the lone Casse entrant not owned by John Oxley. She was a head behind next-out stakes winner Rose and Shine when fourth first-time out in the Shady Well Stakes. She hasn’t started since she graduated convincingly here Aug. 6.

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

“She was extremely impressive last time,” said Casse. “We took her to Saratoga, to see how she would handle the track. I felt like she wasn’t at her best on that surface, so we brought her back to try her on the turf.”

The aptly-named Hard Not to Like could be favored off her victory over males in the allowance prep for the Summer Stakes. She graduated over six furlongs on the grass in her only previous outing.

When the allowance prep for the Natalma failed to fill, trainer Gail Cox put Hard Not to Like in the Summer prep, which she won by daylight over the well-regarded Maritimer.

“We had planned on running in the Natalma prep, and I believe there were only two fillies in there,” Cox recalled. “Just before that, there was a winners’ race that didn’t fill, so the only chance to get a race before the Natalma was against the boys.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher entered St Pancras, who won a two-turn maiden special over Saratoga’s turf. Pletcher sent out the runner-up in last year’s Natalma, More Than Real, who returned to win the Grade 2 BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The Chad Brown-trained Dayatthespa also graduated on the grass at the Spa, winning a maiden special sprint by four lengths.