From a purely mathematical standpoint, owner John Oxley and trainer Mark Casse had a one-in-four chance of winning Saturday's $240,345 Natalma S. (Can-G3) for juvenile fillies at Woodbine as three of the 12 entrants adorned Oxley's classic-winning gray and yellow silks. In the end it was the more highly favored of the uncoupled trio, NORTHERN PASSION (First Samurai), who punched her ticket to Churchill Downs for the November 4 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G2) with an authoritative last-to-first rally.
Breaking from post 10, Northern Passion was allowed to settle at the rear of the field by Luis Contreras down the backside. Riding the rail around the far turn, Northern Passion encountered little traffic while advancing through the field. Fifth with a quarter-mile remaining, the chestnut continued to surge up the inside and wore down the pace-pressing Dayatthespa (City Zip) in the final furlong to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths. The 6-1 fourth choice, Northern Passion paid $14.70, $6.80 and $4.20 after completing one mile in 1:35.
"No, it wasn't," said Contreras when asked if his game plan was to take an inside path. "But the race went like that and I just took my chance of getting my horse clear."
Dayatthespa, who tracked in second as Quality Lass (Exclusive Quality) set fractions of :23 1/5 and :46 2/5, seized control from that rival approaching the three-quarter marker. A length clear after six furlongs in 1:11 1/5, she continued to maintain that advantage through most of the stretch run but couldn't contain the winner. The 9-2 second choice, Dayatthespa was two lengths clear of 17-1 chance Stephanie's Kitten (Kitten's Joy) at the wire. Fourth was another Oxley-Casse entrant, Spirited Miss (Sky Mesa), who was followed by 5-2 favorite Hard Not to Like (Hard Spun), Ten K Cat (Tale of the Cat), Sky Dreamer (Sky Mesa), Runfor Ro (Afleet Alex), St Pancras (Scat Daddy), Quality Lass, Evil Kitten (Kitten's Joy) and Welcome Dance (Henny Hughes). Anna Sophia (Oasis Dream [GB]) was scratched.
Northern Passion made a winning debut at Woodbine on July 9, rallying from mid-pack to take a 5 1/2-furlong maiden by 1 1/4 lengths on the Polytrack. Remaining on that surface for the August 13 Ontario Debutante S. at 6 1/2 furlongs, the chestnut made another nice close but fell short of catching Tu Endie Wei (Johar) by a half-length in a runner-up effort. Her career earnings now stand at $235,707.
Bred in Ontario by Mel Lawson, Northern Passion was a $220,000 OBS March two-year-old in training purchase. She was produced by the stakes-placed A Touch of Glory (Golden Gear), who has subsequently reared yearling and weanling full sisters to the Natalma winner. A Touch of Glory is a full sister to Canadian champion and 2001 Natalma winner Ginger Gold, and a half-sister to Coronation Futurity winner Kesagami (Carson City). This is the family of Grade 3 winner Take Note of Me (Notebook) and, further back, 1945 Kentucky Derby hero Hoop, Jr. (*Sir Gallahad III).