Victory to Victory wins the Natalma Stakes

Victory to Victory wins the Natalma Stakes

Michael Burns

Victory to Victory Breaks Maiden in Natalma

Exchange Rate filly too strong in grade I event at Woodbine.

Live Oak Plantation's homebred Victory to Victory entered the $250,000 Natalma Stakes (Can-IT) as a maiden but struck from off a hot early pace to post her first career win in the race Sept. 18 at Woodbine.

Red Lodge led into the stretch, but Victory to Victory easily flicked off the favorite and went on to the victory under Florent Geroux while providing trainer Mark Casse a seventh win, and third consecutively, in the race for 2-year-old fillies run as a grade I for the first time this year.

Victory to Victory finished one mile in 1:35.24 on firm turf and earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) as the Natalma is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series.

Will She sped out to the front early and led Red Lodge by about a length through a half mile in :45.37, with Victory to Victory biding her time in fifth on the outside. 

Red Lodge moved alongside Will She on the turn and put that rival away for a short-lived lead entering the lane. Geroux brought Victory to Victory six wide to challenge immediately and took over. Runner-up Stormy Perfection ranged up to threaten, but Victory to Victory skipped away in the final sixteenth to triumph by about two lengths. Beat the Benchmark was third.

Victory to Victory returned $17.70, $8.30, and $5.70, Stormy Perfection paid $11.80 and $8.30, and Beat the Benchmark returned $4.50 to show.

Victory to Victory debuted at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 12, finishing a troubled fifth, and subsequently shipped to Woodbine and finished a good-closing second in a seven-furlong turf allowance to prep for the Natalma. 

That experience, plus the addition of blinkers, may have made the difference.

"She broke very sharply from the gate," Geroux said. "From there we got a nice position, without taking any bumping or anything. Turning for home she gave me a very nice kick."

Norman Casse, assistant and son to Mark Casse, sent out Victory to Victory for the Natalma.

"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."

Luis Contreras, who rode Stormy Perfection, had praise for his mount's effort.

"She's a really nice filly and she tried so hard," said Contreras.  "There was a decent pace in the race and the horse that won the other stake (Good Samaritan in the Summer Stakes [Can-IIT]) came from last so I was pretty confident I was in good position.

"I knew when I asked her, she would give me everything. At mid-stretch I thought we were going to win but the winner had a little bit more."

Florida-bred Victory to Victory, by deceased Exchange Rate, is out of Live Oak's Canadian champion turf female Points of Grace, by Point Given .