March 22, 2023

Mysterious Night romps in Summer, Last Call upsets Natalma to earn Breeders’ Cup spots

Mysterious Night wins the Summer Stakes at Woodbine (Photo by Michael Burns Photography)

Heavily favored Mysterious Night ran himself into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) with a romp in Saturday’s “Win and You’re In” Summer (G1) at Woodbine. The companion Natalma (G1) witnessed an upset, however, as longshot Last Call broke her maiden in this Challenge race for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Summer (G1)

Bet down to 0.55-1 favoritism in the $389,038 Summer, Godolphin’s Mysterious Night outclassed his foes by 5 3/4 lengths to give trainer Charlie Appleby his second straight winner of this race. The blaze-faced bay looks to be operating at a different level, however, from 2021 scorer Albahr.

A slightly slow start on the rail worked to Mysterious Night’s benefit, as jockey William Buick was able to rate him kindly in midpack with cover. Up front, Ninetyfour Expos carved out splits of :24.17 and :47.83 on the firm turf.

Mysterious Night was just cruising into second on the turn when Ninetyfour Expos reached six furlongs in 1:11.76. Track announcer Robert Geller recognized that the favorite was “casually” ambling up to challenge at the top of the lane, and the race was over a long way out. Buick held onto the blaze-faced bay as long as possible, finally turning him loose in midstretch. Mysterious Night burst away in a couple of strides to finish the mile in 1:34.98, far faster than the Natalma.

The Chad Brown-trained Appraise rallied for runner-up honors, 1 1/4 lengths clear of deep-closing Philip My Dear. Ninetyfour Expos tired to fourth, followed by Stayhonor Goodside, Sammy Stone, and Chiseler.

“We were keen to get a bit of cover on him,” Appleby’s assistant Alex Merriam said, “so it worked well that the two horse (Ninetyfour Expos) went forward and he slotted in nicely. He got a nice trip around and he was getting him settled, getting to switch off and travel around nicely. He’s a lovely horse.”

“He rode beautiful and the track is in great condition,” Buick said. “I walked it before, and you know, it’s as good as it always is. We knew the horse was going to like it, fast ground. He traveled through the race beautifully. He was giving me plenty of confidence throughout the race and he was happy travelling away, so it was perfect for him and hopefully he can go on from here.”

Mysterious Night improved his record to 6-3-1-2, $308,369. As described in detail in the international scouting report, he won smartly second time out at Newbury, placed third in the July (G2) and Vintage (G2), and scored a stakes victory in his latest in the Prix Francois Boutin (G3) at Deauville.

The Irish homebred has now joined full sister Althiqa as a North American Grade 1 winner. Also by Dark Angel and out of the stakes-winning Shamardal mare Mistrusting, Althiqa plundered both the Just a Game (G1) and Diana (G1) in 2021.

Natalma (G1)

As a twice-raced maiden, Last Call brought the thinnest resume into the $383,006 Natalma, and accordingly went off as the 21-1 longest shot on the board. But the daughter of English Channel put it all together with blinkers off – a 23% move for trainer Kevin Attard. The equipment change was probably more significant than just the step up to a mile, judging by how she traveled through the race.

Jockey Rafael Hernandez also gave Last Call a very clever ride. Given her rank behavior when tiring to fourth in her prior start, he was patient early to be sure of getting her to settle, before sensing the right time to go.

The other maiden in the field, Star Candy, dictated a slow tempo in :24.27, :49.02, and 1:12.76, tracked by Adora and Courtly Ro. Then Hernandez had Last Call advance on the outside and pounce on the leaders. In the process, she got the decisive jump on the top betting choices, Cairo Consort and G Laurie, who were both strung up behind horses.

Last Call kept going too strongly to be threatened. Maintaining a one-length margin at the wire, she clocked 1:36.49 and rewarded her backers with $44.30.

Cairo Consort, the 1.65-1 favorite, picked up once finding a seam to take second. The 3.20-1 G Laurie, suffering in midpack for longer, also finished willingly with daylight in third. Wickenheiser, Adora, Collecting Flatter, Courtly Ro, and Star Candy concluded the order of finish.

X-Men Racing 2 and SF Racing’s Last Call had shaped with promise in her July 23 debut, placing second to the more experienced Cairo Consort, the next-out winner of the Catch a Glimpse S. But Last Call regressed in her follow-up on Aug. 20, over-racing in the blinkers. Attard made the equipment change that paid off for a Grade 1 win, advancing her line to 3-1-1-0, $

“We put the blinkers on early because she just wasn’t showing a whole lot in the beginning,” Attard  and then the lightbulb kind of kicked in and she just started working more impressive each time,” said Attard. “And we were obviously a little disappointed in her last start, but we thought she was a little rank, she wouldn’t relax and settle so we’ve taken the blinkers off.

“I think just now with a couple races of experience under her belt and obviously her pedigree leans to more distance she put it all together today.”

Bred by English Channel Co-Owners and Jodi Cantwell in Kentucky, Last Call was sold for $30,000 as a Keeneland September yearling to bloodstock guru Donato Lanni, as agent. The chestnut is a full sister to multiple stakes-placed English Tavern. Their dam, the Black Minnaloushe mare Over Served, is herself a half to Grade 2 winners Yearly Report and Victor Avenue.

Attard commented on the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” perk.

“Yeah, obviously that’s very exciting. You know what I mean, a filly like her should get better with a little more time and a little more distance. It’s something we’re obviously going to have to discuss with the ownership group, but I’m sure if all goes well, she’s earned her way there (to the Juvenile Fillies Turf), so hopefully we have a date in Keeneland.”