Invitational, off the board just once in seven career starts, makes her 4-year-old debut for conditioner Catherine Day Phillips in a difficult spot – Saturday's $300,000 Nassau Stakes (Can-II) at Woodbine.The Cudney Stables and Kingview Farms' filly, sporting a record of three wins, two seconds and one third, takes on six rivals, including owner Gary Tanaka's Hallowed Dream, shooting for her fifth consecutive win, in the 1 1/16-mile event on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course.The Nassau has also attracted the Christophe Clement-trained Naissance Royale, the 9-5 morning line favorite who will have Kent Desormeaux in the irons.Day Phillips knows her budding star, a bay daughter of Peaks and Valleys, will have to be at the top of her game. Her last start was a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Carotene Stakes on Oct. 8 at the Toronto oval."It's a long layoff and a tough spot for her," said Day Phillips, of the Ontario-bred. "We'll have to see how she handles this company."After three main track starts to launch her career, Invitational took to the grass for the first time on July 7.Under regular rider Jono Jones, she rallied four-wide and crossed the wire a half-length winner at odds of 6-1.
Next time out, in the 1 ¼-mile Wonder Where Stakes, Invitational finished a strong second, 3 ½ lengths behind Silver Highlight over firm turf.After a five-length allowance score on September 2, Invitational closed out her 2005 campaign with her triumph in the Carotene. The filly has earned $251,180.
"She's a nice filly and she just loves the Woodbine turf," said Day Phillips. Last year, Cornelio Velasquez piloted Que Puntual to a half-length win over Ambitious Cat, the Eric Coatrieux-trained filly who is back to contest the 51st running of the Nassau.$300,000 Nassau Stakes (Can-II, Race 6, 3:40 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Ambitious Cat (KY), Patrick Husbands, 117, 4/1
2. Black Rock Road (ON), Todd Kabel, 115, 6/1
3. Hallowed Dream (IRE), Jose Valdivia, Jr., 117, 3/1
4. Kabul (ON), Slade Callaghan, 117, 15/1
5. Ballroom Deputy (KY), Dino Luciani, 119, 12/1
6. Invitational (ON), Jono C. Jones, 119, 6/1
7. Naissance Royale (IRE), Kent J. Desormeaux, 119, 9/5