TORONTO, September 16, 2023 – She Feels Pretty, closing down the middle of the track under rider John Velazquez, proved best by 4 ¼ lengths in Saturday’s Grade 1 Johnnie Walker Natalma Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
The Natalma, a $500,000 turf race contested over one mile of grass, is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series and gives the winner a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. That Grade 1, one-mile event will be run at Santa Anita on November 3.
“I was very confident, I got to say she was feeling very confident,” said Velazquez. “I made sure I put her in a good position behind Dylan Davis (rider of Ozara), a horse that could take me a little way down. When we turned for home, I moved her to the clear and her ears went up and I said, ‘Wow, look at this.’ I went after her and she instantly responded. The way she did it was very impressive.”
Simply in Front, the only non-winner in the 13-filly field, was well-placed throughout and ended a solid second at odds of just under 30-1.
English invader Dazzling Star, the 7-5 favourite to give trainer Charlie Appleby an eighth straight Grade 1 success at Woodbine and a third win in the Natalma, broke slowly and while she made up ground was never able to enter serious contention. The Godolphin homebred finished 2 ½ lengths behind the runner-up.
Ozara, looking to give the Christophe Clement barn a sweep of the day’s Grade 1 features for 2-year-olds, raced prominently and appeared to be in with a big chance turning for home only to flatten out slightly and finish fourth.
Golden Canary ended fifth after setting fractions of :22.86, :47.01, and 1:11.81 before weakening.
Ready to Jam, Rhapsody, Bolt Enoree, Dea Matrona (FR), She’s Fire, Ms. Tart and Brocknardini rounded out the official order of finish.
Dancing Duchess had crossed the finish line in sixth place but was disqualified and placed 13th after the stewards found her guilty of causing interference to several rivals via a chain reaction at the eighth pole.
Go With Gusto and Airosa had been cross-entered in the Summer Stakes and opted to face males there.
She Feels Pretty paid $18 as the third choice after completing the mile in 1:35.34.
The Natalma was the first career Grade 1 win for DeVaux and her first triumph at Woodbine in just two tries.
“I have been very confident with her, especially with her training at Saratoga,” said DeVaux. “Every single day that she has trained she physically matured, she mentally matured. She goes out there and you can’t tell that she is a 2-year-old filly. She looks like she is one of the older fillies and more impressively just how she trains every single day she is happy to do it, it gave me the confidence going into this, especially taking this big step.”
She Feels Pretty, who knocked down $240,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale last September, was starting for just the second time after scoring by a neck in a 5 ½-furlong turf race at Ellis Park on July 16.
Bill Tallon, for Woodbine Communications