La Coronel whistled while she worked - and galloped and jogged - this summer at Saratoga. She's since shed the habit, but still whistled in a slightly different way Wednesday at Keeneland Race Course.
Trainer Mark Casse, who pointed out the whistle while the Colonel John filly trained one morning in mid-August, figures it was caused by something in her sinuses. No figuring was needed in Wednesday's Grade 3 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes as La Coronel blew past the opposition to earn an automatic berth in next month's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
John Oxley's La Coronel won the 1 1/16-mile Jessamine by 4 1/4 lengths under Florent Geroux for her second straight victory. Lull, winner of the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies Turf last time after falling in Saratoga's Bolton Landing in her previous start, finished a clear second in the field of 12 2-year-old fillies.
Casse pointed out La Coronel's whistle two days before he sent out Catch A Glimpse, another turf standout he compares favorably to the Jessamine winner, in the Grade 2 Lake Placid. She'd finished off the board in her first two starts on the dirt to that point - both times as the favorite - and Casse pegged her as "not a bad filly."
"Listen to this filly," Casse said as La Coronel galloped past the half-mile pole while out in the middle of the main track. "We don't know what it is; it's like there's something up in her nostril. It's not a deep whistle but she whistles constantly."
About two weeks later Casse switched La Coronel to the grass and she - ahem - whistled to a 4-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race over New Money Honey.
Florent Geroux rode La Coronel for the first time that day and when he got off the filly he gave his stamp of approval.
"This is your next Catch A Glimpse," said Geroux, who rides the Canadian Horse of the Year and multiple Grade 1 winner. That sentiment, along with New Money Honey coming back to break her maiden in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo two weeks ago at Belmont Park, gave Casse even more confidence.
Bettors were equally enthused and hammered La Coronel down to 9-5 for the $150,000 stakes despite the presence of Lull, two runners from Chad Brown's barn in Lipstick City and Liberale and impressive Kentucky Downs maiden winner Sweeping Paddy.
The bettors got it right as they watched La Coronel rate behind the speed early, inch up along the turn and set sail for the determined Lull into the lane. Lull turned for home with a nearly 3-length lead, looking like she'd go on to her third win in four starts.
"Without sounding cocky I felt good at the top of the lane," Casse said. "I knew that filly was running but I felt like Florent hadn't asked her to run yet and she can just take off like that. She's amazing."
Casse likened La Coronel's ability to accelerated and run past rivals on the turns to champions Tepin and Catch A Glimpse, high praise for a filly with only four career starts. She did just that in the stretch Wednesday at Keeneland, reeling Lull in outside the eighth pole before drawing clear a sixteenth from home. La Coronel won in 1:43.37, faster than the 1:44.92 it took her male stablemate Keep Quiet to win Sunday's Grade 3 Dixiana Bourbon on the same course.
"I was telling Dale (Romans) today, I saw him right before we went to the paddock and he said, 'how good is this filly?' " Casse said. "I haven't seen too many horses that can fly by horses around the turn. Usually on the turf it's not easy to do. Tepin does it, Catch A Glimpse does it and this filly did it when she broke her maiden.
"And this filly, the filly that she beat she did it impressively, and she came back and won the Miss Grillo. It wasn't like she beat up on bad horses, she beat up on good horses."
A $375,000 buy at the OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training, La Coronel now heads to the Breeders' Cup with stablemate Victory To Victory, winner of the Grade 1 Natalma in her most recent start at Woodbine.
La Coronel, Tepin, Catch A Glimpse and Classic Empire were all part of a small Casse string that stayed in Saratoga after the summer meeting ended Labor Day. Norm Casse oversaw that group's training and got full credit from his father after Wednesday's Jessamine.
"Norman's done a really good job with this filly," Mark Casse said. "He had her up at Saratoga. She just came over here yesterday.
"She's a bit excitable as is Catch A Glimpse. That seems to be our forte, to be able to calm some of these fillies down. Now, Tepin, nobody calmed her down, she's just calm. We won't put her in that category. It's exciting."