Pink Champagne Sparkles in Natalma

(from Woodbine report)
Starview Stables's Pink Champagne, ridden by Richard Dos Ramos, whipped favored Saree in late stretch to win the featured $177,000 Natalma Stakes (Can-III) for 2-year-old fillies Saturday at Woodbine.

Pink Champagne, a New York import, was a head better than another invader, British-bred Saree, with America America, a world traveler herself, a length further back in third, in 1:36.53.

The fractions were fast early on over the firm E.P. Taylor Turf Course, as longshots Sleek and Powerful and Molly's Gone clicked off a 21.73 first quarter and a 44.22 half, while battling on the front end. Meanwhile, Pink Champagne, a daughter of 1997 Queen's Plate winner and 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) champion Awesome Again, was angled over to the rail from her outside post and patiently awaited an opening as the field turned for home.

A hole did open up in mid-stretch, allowing Pink Champagne to pop her head in front inside the eighth pole. But following right behind her was Saree and jockey Patrick Husbands, who then battled together in the last sixteenth.

"She's been training very well on the grass," said co-owner Joe Petruska. "We decided to come up here. (Trainer) John Kimmel has been pointing her to this race basically all summer. She trained at Saratoga. We had picked this race out early on. We were actually going to run her in the Adirondack and we passed to come to this race up here. She ran fabulous. I'm very happy."

A $100,000 purchase at the Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale in February, Kentucky-bred Pink Champagne had debuted impressively at Belmont Park in July, exploding to win a six-furlong maiden turf contest by two lengths. The Natalma was just her second start.

"The day started off really rough," said Dos Ramos, who inherited the mount on Pink Champagne when fellow rider Robert Landry was injured yesterday in a spill at Woodbine. "In 20 minutes I lost all three horses (due to scratches) I was supposed to ride today. I'm sorry Rob got hurt but I was very happy that I could pick up this horse today.

"I thought she might have ran a hundred times the way she did everything right today. I went through a little hole with her and she didn't hesitate, she just went on through it. She was looking around a little bit through the lane and when Patrick (jockey Husbands, aboard Saree) came up to me, she dug back in and fought to the wire. I'll make it up to Rob later."

Named for the mother of Northern Dancer, Canada's most famous thoroughbred, the Natalma was reduced to a field of 10 after the steward scratches of Lotus Land and Sweetgum.

Pink Champagne picked up a purse of $106,200 and, as the 5-2 second choice, returned $7.20, $4.20 and $3.50 across the board. She combined with the 2-1 slight choice Saree ($3.80, $3.20) for a $28.40 (11-8) exacta. America America ($4.50) completed a trifecta worth $127.30.

(Chart, Equibase)