Negligee, who was named Canada’s 2009 co-champion 2-year-old female, has yet make her 3-year-old debut, but when she does, Matt Gatsas of Sovereign Stable hopes it’s a good enough performance to send her straight to Churchill Downs for a run in the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
The daughter of Northern Afleet is slated to make her big comeback in the April 3 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland for Sovereign, a public partnership group based in New Hampshire. Sovereign’s partners, who hail from all over the United States and Canada, buy interests in horses as low as 2% or as high as 30%, based on their financial appetite. There are around 20-25 investors in Negligee, Gatsas said.
Negligee was a $52,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase in 2008 by Norman Casse, who consigned her the next year to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s 2-year-old in training sale. Negligee failed to meet her reserve, however when the bidding stopped at $52,000.
Casse then decided to race the filly in her first two starts in partnership with Quintessential Racing. Breaking her maiden on her first try last July at Woodbine, she then ran second in the Ontario Debutante Stakes, also at the Canada track.
“I happened to be watching the (Ontario Debutante) in Saratoga with my trainer (John Terranova) who was running a horse in that race,” said Gatsas, who has operated Sovereign since 2001, and prior to that ran his family’s stable, which was founded in 1996. “We watched the race, and Negligee gave (Terranova’s) filly—Franny Freud—everything she could handle that day.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘(Negligee) might be a good filly to buy—let’s look her up.’ So we knew (former trainer) Mark (Casse), and we started a dialogue there, and after checking everything out, we purchased her.”
Gatsas admitted he had bought Negligee based more on her past performances than her physical appearance and pedigree.
“She’s very medium-sized built,” he said. “She’s very well put together, but physically she’s not unbelievably outstanding, and that’s probably why she was passed over at the yearling and 2-year-old sales.”
Negligee immediately confirmed that Gatsas and Terranova had made a good decision when she scored big in her next start for them—the prestigious Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland over eventual champion She Be Wild.
While Negligee was certainly impressive in the Alcibiades, and was training well leading up to her next start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), she wound up finishing sixth, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by her nemesis She Be Wild, who won the race. The two fillies are expected to face each other once again in the Ashland.
“We had a little incident there at the top of the stretch (in the Breeders’ Cup) that (Negligee) caused, but if she wouldn’t have taken a right hand turn at the top of the stretch, we felt we would have been there at the wire,” said Gatsas of Negligee, who posted a bullet work March 24, covering five furlongs in 1:00.50. Later that afternoon, she was sent to Keeneland, where she worked four furlongs in :49 3/5 March 30 in her final preparation for the Ashland.
“We feel like she’s a grade I filly, and is as good a 3-year-old filly as there is in the country, but we’re about to find that out," he said. "She’s competitive, and she’s the only horse to beat She Be Wild (during her championship season). So our thought process is that she deserves shots like this.”