Fair Maiden was very impressive when romping by 7 1/2 lengths in the Catch A Glimpse Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs of yielding turf at Woodbine on August 17.
On Sunday, the Godolphin homebred will be returning from her Chicago base seeking to extend her win streak to three and become a Grade 1 stakes winner in the $250,000 Natalma Stakes over one mile of grass.
The one-mile Natalma is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” series with the winner receiving a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita on November 1.
Fair Maiden, conditioned by Eoin Harty, had started twice on Arlington Park’s Polytrack surface prior to shipping here for the Catch A Glimpse, finishing second in her 4 1/2-furlong opener and then exploding for a double-digit maiden score at five furlongs.
In the Catch A Glimpse, the Street Boss-Sheildmaiden filly stalked the early leader and then took charge for an emphatic 7 1/2-length victory over 6 1/2 furlongs of “soft” going.
“After that, the Natalma became a prime consideration for her,” said Harty. “At this time of year, there are a lot of opportunities for two-year-olds but she got over the course up there really well.”
Fair Maiden has breezed twice at Arlington since the Catch A Glimpse, the latest a five-furlong spin in 1:02 on Tuesday.
“She didn’t work that fast but she worked very well,” said Harty, who also believes the stretch-out to a mile will be no obstacle.
“I really don’t think she’ll have distance limitations, especially when it comes to a mile,” said Harty.
Emma-Jayne Wilson piloted Fair Maiden to her win here but was injured in a spill last Sunday, leading Harty to secure the services of Flavien Prat for the Natalma.
European-raced horses have won the last two runnings of the Natalma with La Pelosa replicating the 2017 feat of Capla Temptress.
Arriving late Monday night from England via Amsterdam for this year’s running were Walk in Marrakesh and Diamond Sparkles.
Conditioned by Mark Johnston in England, Walk in Marrakesh is a three-time winner from five starts, all on the grass. The Irish-bred’s last four outings have come over seven furlongs or thereabouts with the latest a trip to France for a third-place finish over “soft” going in the Group 2 Prix du Calvados.
Diamond Sparkles, winner of an allowance race over seven furlongs of “good” turf when making her second career appearance in England, has been purchased privately by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber.
The Kentucky-bred now is trained by Mark Casse and will be heading south next week. Casse has won a record seven renewals of the Natalma, including three in a row from 2014 through 2016.
“She’s a really nice filly,” said Casse. “Her race in England looks very good, and she’s been training well over there, so I would expect her to run well.”
In addition to Diamond Sparkle, Casse will be represented by Coach Lori in the race on Sunday and has entered Secret Stash in both the Natalma and its companion feature, the Summer Stakes, run under the same terms but open to both sexes.
Owned by Brereton C. Jones, Coach Lori rallied from last place in a field of seven to prevail by a neck in her August 3 debut over five furlongs on the inner turf course at Woodbine.
“She got away a little slow, and I didn’t think she had any chance at all, and she was able,” said Casse. “She’s come back and trained about as good as any two-year-old filly we’ve ever had.”
Secret Stash, purchased privately by Gary Barber after winning second time out in her native Ireland, will be makings her North American debut in the Natalma.
“We’ve had her in Kentucky for a while,” said Casse. “We tried to run her in a stakes at Kentucky Downs, but unfortunately she didn’t get in. So, this is Plan B.
“I think the mile will be ideal for all three fillies.”
Also shipping in from south of the border will be Abscond, trained by Kentucky-based Eddie Kenneally.
Abscond scored first crack out over 5 1/2 furlongs of Ellis Park turf and then finished second at Saratoga over the same distance and surface in the listed Bolton Landing Stakes.
Rounding out the Natalma lineup will be locally-based Saratoga Vision, trained by Al Patykewich, and Runway Dreamer, conditioned by Josie Carroll.
Saratoga Vision is winless in seven starts but is coming off a third-place finish in the Catch A Glimpse while Runway Dreamer ended fourth in a one-mile maiden turf race in her only outing to date.
$250,000 Natalma Stakes (Grade 1)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Walk in Marrakesh – Jamie Spencer – Mark Johnston
2 – Diamond Sparkles – Tyler Gaffalione – Mark Casse
3 – Fair Maiden – Flavien Prat – Eoin Harty
4 – Runway Dreamer – Luis Contreras – Josie Caroll
5 – Saratoga Vision – Jeffrey Alderson – Al Patykewich
6 – Coach Lori – John Velasquez – Mark Casse
7 – Secret Stash – Tyler Gaffalione – Mark Casse
8 – Abscond – Irad Ortiz Jr. – Eddie Kenneally