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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Turf or Dirt: Northern Passion Decision Delayed


In her first work over a dirt surface, Natalma Stakes winner Northern Passion breezed four furlongs in :51.80 (29/35) over a fast Churchill Downs track this morning under regular exercise rider Melanie Giddings. Connections did not immediately decide whether to take her to dirt or turf on Ladies Day of Breeders' Cup, Nov. 4.

 “She went off the first eighth in about :14,” assistant trainer Norman Casse said. “It was her first time not working in company, so she didn’t really know what was going on at the beginning. The important thing is that she finished strong and she looked good. We’re happy.”
Northern Passion was awarded an automatic berth in the starting gate for the Juvenile Fillies Turf following her victory in the Natalma.

“The slow time is just a reflection of the slow opening eighth,” Casse said. “I think she handled the dirt fine, and she’s already won on two surfaces, so I don’t know why she wouldn’t be able to handle the dirt. Also, my dad has always said the Churchill surface is very comparable to Polytrack. A lot of turf and synthetic horses seem to like it on this dirt more than anywhere else.”

The Casse barn has had success this year with horses trying the Churchill dirt for the first time after previously racing exclusively on turf and synthetic surfaces, including a victory in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap with Pool Play, who was subsequently sidelined with an injury.
orthern Passion, a $220,000 OBS Selected 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase, will have another work on the dirt beneath the Twin Spires early next week before a final decision is made on her next start.
“Dad is coming to Kentucky next week for the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale, and she’ll work while he is here,” Casse said. “That’s when we’ll decide where to go.”

Spirited Miss, a stable mate 2-year-old filly in the Casse barn who races under the John Oxley colors, is also being considered for the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Juvenile Fillies. The bay daughter of Sky Mesa ran fourth in the Natalma prior to finishing second in the Mazarine at Woodbine in her most recent start. She is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday and will be stabled in Barn 24. There are currently no plans for when she will first work over the Louisville track.  

--Edited Churchill Downs release


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