09/13/2012 12:21PM

Woodbine: Casse has two in Natalma with eye toward the Breeders’ Cup

Tom Keyser
Coconut Shrimp, trained by Todd Pletcher, won his maiden race in a Saratoga sprint.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Leading trainer Mark Casse will spring into action Saturday at Woodbine, when he runs Spring in the Air and Spring Venture in the $250,000 Natalma Stakes.

The Grade 2 turf route for 2-year-old fillies is an important Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In event, with the winner earning a fees-paid trip to the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Santa Anita. The Natalma has produced the last two BC Juvenile Fillies Turf winners, More Than Real, who finished second in the Natalma, and Stephanie’s Kitten, who was third in the Natalma.

Saturday’s card also includes the $250,000 Summer, a Win and You’re In for the BC Juvenile Turf.

Spring in the Air was a slow-starting second when she debuted in the Shady Well Stakes, and she came back to crush maidens by 10 lengths Aug. 4. Casse scratched her from a recent allowance that served as the prep for the Summer Stakes, so she is going into the Natalma without any turf experience.

“Ideally, I would have loved to have run her over it,” Casse admitted. “She was in the Summer prep, but she wasn’t right then. We took a blood on her, and her white count was high. We treated her, and she snapped right out of it. She’s come back and trained really well.”

Both fillies were expensive 2-year-old purchases by freshman sire Spring At Last.

“I thought they were amazing on the track,” Casse recalled. “That’s why we bought them. They’re both real average-looking horses.”

Casse said Patrick Husbands chose Spring Venture over Spring in the Air, who will have Garret Gomez aboard. Husbands was up when Spring Venture rallied wide to land her debut convincingly, in a seven-furlong maiden special on the grass Aug. 18.

“I had another horse in there who tried to wipe her out at the start,” Casse said. “That put her behind, but Patrick had so much confidence in her that he just sat there and relaxed and then went around.”

Tiz Ro has the look of a serious contender. She was meant to debut on the grass July 27, but the six-furlong maiden special was moved to the Polytrack. She prevailed by 5 1/2 lengths with a Beyer Speed Figure of 77.

“I’ve always thought that she’s pretty spectacular,” trainer Greg de Gannes said. “She was ready to run, so why wait for another day? She’s thrived since then.”

De Gannes called a Sept. 1 workout “extremely impressive. She blew Crowns Path out of the water. She sat five lengths behind him and finished five in front. Luis Contreras sat there until the eighth pole and then niggled at her a little, and she just took off.”

By Hard Spun, Tiz Ro is a half-sister to Arlington Million winner Jambalaya. De Gannes said he has no qualms with extending her out to a mile.

“I don’t think a mile will bother her one iota,” De Gannes said. “Watching her gallop out in her race, she was getting further and further in front. In all of her works, she’s finished incredibly strong and galloped out strong. She’s really bred to go 10 furlongs.”

Among the promising shippers in the large field are Coconut Shrimp and Dance for Glory, who ran one-two in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special at Saratoga on Aug. 13.

Coconut Shrimp is sent out by Todd Pletcher, the trainer of More Than Real. Dance for Glory’s trainer, Chad Brown, sent out last year’s Natalma runner-up, Dayatthespa.