Are you looking forward to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 6 at Keeneland? You should be – over the last decade, the 1-mile event for 2-year-old fillies has been won by a bevy of elite grass stars, including Lady Eli, Rushing Fall, and Stephanie’s Kitten.
One of the most important steppingstones toward the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is Sunday’s $250,000 Grade 1 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine. Held over the same one-mile distance as the championship event, the Natalma annually attracts some of the most promising 2-year-old grass fillies from across North America.
The 2020 renewal is no exception. Seven horses have been entered, led by #5 Alda and #4 Dreaming of Drew, who were separated by a nose when finishing 1-2 in Woodbine’s Aug. 23 Catch a Glimpse Stakes. Alda, a stretch-running daughter of accomplished sprinter Munnings, won the day by unleashing a furious charge in the final strides, Yet Dreaming of Drew ran equally well in defeat, tracking a fast pace and forging to the front before coming up just short at the wire.
There’s plenty to like about Alda and Dreaming of Drew. Alda broke her maiden impressively at Belmont Park and is conditioned by Graham Motion, the trainer of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Dreaming of Drew romped to a maiden victory over the synthetic Tapeta track at Woodbine and picks up the services of Woodbine’s leading jockey Justin Stein.
But neither Alda nor Dreaming of Drew have ever run a mile, so the distance of the Natalma is a question mark for these promising but unproven fillies. #3 Sleek Lynx isn’t nearly as accomplished as the probable favorites (in fact, she’s yet to win a race), but the extended journey of the Natalma could play in her favor.
Trained by Mark Casse, who has won the Natalma a record seven times since 2006, Sleek Lynx is bred to be an elite turf filly. A daughter of renowned stallion War Front, Sleek Lynx was produced by the Montjeu mare Sarah Lynx, who defeated males in the 2011 Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine.
Sleek Lynx debuted in a one-mile maiden special weight on July 23 at Gulfstream Park and ran a big race in defeat. After rating patiently along the rail in sixth place during the early going, Sleek Lynx shifted outside around the far turn and unleashed a huge rally to take the lead. Victory appeared to be in the bag, but Sleek Lynx raced greenly down the stretch, and she ultimately lost by a half a length to the future stakes-placed filly Director’s Cut.
With the experience of a race under her belt, Sleek Lynx figures to compete more professionally in the Natalma. Drawing post three should allow her to save ground once again, and the fact Rafael Hernandez has been named to ride is a positive. Hernandez ranks among Woodbine’s leading jockeys and wins at a 26% rate when teaming up with Casse, so all signs suggest Sleek Lynx will be ready for a big effort in the Natalma.
#6 Lady Speightspeare, a front-running 3 ¾-length maiden winner over the Woodbine turf course last month, is another logical contender for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield. The speedy daughter of Speightster ran fast in her debut and has trained sharply in preparation for the Natalma, so she looms as the most likely pacesetter. #2 Seasons, a rallying maiden winner over 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga, can also contend for a spot on the board.
Since Sleek Lynx is 8-1 on the morning line, a straightforward win bet should generate a nice profit if she can out-sprint her rivals to the finish line. Bettors playing on a small budget can take this approach and call it a day, but for horseplayers with more capital to spend, a trifecta ticket keying Sleek Lynx in the top two slots is also worth pursuing.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$10 to win on #3 Sleek Lynx
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $10 to win on #3 Sleek Lynx
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$12 to win on #3 Sleek Lynx
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $12 to win on #3 Sleek Lynx
$1 trifecta: 3 with 4,5,6,with 2,4,5,6 ($9)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $1 trifecta 3 with 4,5,6 with 2,4,5,6
$1 trifecta: 4,5,6 with 3 with 2,4,5,6 ($9)
What to say at the betting window: Woodbine, 9th race, $1 trifecta 4,5,6 with 3 with 2,4,5,6
Good luck, and enjoy the race!