Live Oak Plantation's homebred Victory to Victory was an impressive winner of Sunday's G1 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, giving trainer Mark Casse his third consecutive victory in the race. Under Florent Geroux, the juvenile daughter of Exchange Rate covered a mile on the firm turf in 1:35.24 to win by 2 1/2 lengths, breaking her maiden and earning her way into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“She broke very sharply from the gate,” said Geroux. “From there we got a nice position, without taking any bumping or anything. Turning for home she gave me a very nice kick.”
Last year, Casse and Geroux captured the Natalma with the front-running Catch A Glimpse, who would go on to win at the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in the midst of what became an eight-race win streak on the turf. The win is Casse's seventh in the Natalma (2006 Sprung, 2007 Clearly Foxy, 2011 Northern Passion, 2012 Spring Venture, 2014 Conquest Harlanate, 2015 Catch a Glimpse).
This time around, Geroux settled Victory to Victory just off the frontrunners in fifth early on, utilizing her 13th post position to keep the filly on the outside of her rivals in clear racing room throughout the race. Will She won the race to the first quarter-mile marker, speeding through the fraction with a one-length advantage in :22.69. Red Lodge and Enstone chased her from second and third, respectively, with I'll Take the Cake, Black Canary and Victory to Victory trading places behind the top three. After a half-mile in :45.37, Red Lodge ranged up alongside Will She, taking over the lead at the head of the lane.
Victory to Victory ended up about six wide on the turn, but was immediately right alongside Red Lodge to challenge for the lead. Stormy Perfection came from well off the pace up the outside to take on Victory to Victory, but a swift reminder from Geroux kept the Casse trainee to task, and she powered away in the final sixteenth to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Stormy Perfection had to settle for second, with Beat the Benchmark up for third. Thora Barber was fourth.
“I think the blinkers made a big difference today,” said Casse. “We knew she was a very talented horse, and she's finally starting to figure things out.”
Bred in Florida out of Sovereign Award-winning daughter of Point Given named Points of Grace, Victory to Victory was fifth in her first start at Saratoga after being bumped at the start and steadied twice in the lane. She was sent to Woodbine to contest an allowance race, where she broke awkwardly but rallied strongly to come up just short at seven furlongs. Stretching out to the mile distance, Victory to Victory got her first win in the G1 event, improving her career earnings to over $160,000.
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