Bay to Bay could have a date in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf after an impressive victory in the $147,266 Natalma Stakes (Can-IIIT) (VIDEO) in her first try against winners on the Woodbine lawn Sept. 19.
Ridden by David Clark, the Florida-bred 2-year-old daughter of Sligo Bay shook off even-money choice Elusive Galaxy mid-stretch and held off the charging Jungle Tale under steady handling to post a three-quarters-length win. She completed the one-mile "Breeders' Cup Challenge" event in 1:36.06 over firm going.
Jungle Tale, with Luis Contreras aboard, finished second by 1 3/4 lengths over Ernfold, who rallied from last after an awkward start to gain the show spot for James McAleney. Elusive Galaxy, who set a pressured pace in her first North American start, settled for fourth under Rafael Bejarano, 2 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
Owned by Robert Smithen, Bay to Bay now has back-to-back wins for trainer Brian Lynch after posting a two-length maiden victory in her prior start Aug. 14 at seven furlongs on Woodbine's Polytrack. She began her career at Woodbine a month earlier with a closing third-place finish going six furlongs on the turf. The Natalma win was worth $84,366 and boosted her overall earnings to $126,966.
"Her first race was on the grass so I was really confident,” said Lynch. “She ran well her first time."
Bay to Bay is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. Lynch said, "so there's still a considerable supplement involved" in entering the Juvenile Fillies Turf, which is Nov. 6 at Santa Anita Park. Lynch said he would discuss the possibility with Smithen before making a decision.
Out of the With Approval mare Bala, Bay to Bay was bred by Adena Springs and cost $35,000 as a yearling at Keeneland's September sale one year ago.
"She’s a versatile filly,” offered Lynch. “We wanted to see how she'd handle the ‘Poly.' She handled that. That was a perfect prep to have her fit enough to get the mile."
The irish-bred Elusive Galaxy took the lead from Mingun Miss shortly after the start, with Bay to Bay, breaking from the far outside, prominent as well. Fractions were moderate — :24.08, :47.61, and 1:12.49 -- as Elusive Galaxy maintained a half-length advantage over Bay to Bay, who made a first bid for the lead while leaving the turn.
Bay to Bay dueled with Elusive Galaxy through the lane before edging away in the final furlong. She opened a clear advantage as Jungle Tale closed rapidly five-wide from near the rear of the tight pack to make it interesting. Ernfold also closed willingly to finish third by a neck over Elusive Galaxy.
Sent off as the second choice, Bay to Bay paid $9.10, $4.50, and $3.50. Jungle Tale, trained by Steve Asmussen, returned $7.40 and $4.30 in an encouraging effort. The $2 exacta was worth $74.50. The Reade Baker-trained Ernfold was $4.90 to show.
"She always showed that she was a little bit special from the get-go," Lynch said of the winner. "She's virtually the best two-year-old we have in the barn right now."
Elusive Galaxy was followed by Redverse, Gitchee Goomie, Biofuel, Mingun Miss and Show Me the Ring.
Trained by Gerard Lyons in Ireland where she was group-placed in her previous start, Elusive Galaxy is reportedly headed to Ben Cecil's Southern California stable.