ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Christophe Clement’s persistency paid off Sunday as Call Me Love notched her first win in seven starts against North American stakes company, edging favorite Virginia Joy by a neck in the $150,000 River Memories – the Belmont Park spring/summer meet Closing Day feature race.
Owned by R Unicorn Stable, Call Me Love, a dual grouped winner in Italy, went 0-for-5 in a 2020 campaign, where she solely ran against graded stakes company. The 5-year-old chestnut mare has displayed a turnaround in form for her past two starts, defeating allowance optional claiming company going 1 1/16 miles on May 23 at Belmont Park ahead of Sunday’s engagement.
Call Me Love broke from post 2 under jockey Junior Alvarado in the 1 ½-mile contest for older fillies and mares as graded stakes-winning stable mate Mutamakina assumed command in the early stages over the good going on the Widener turf course. Last year’s winner, Civil Union, tracked to her outside in second with Call Me Love along the rail in third position.
Mutamakina maintained her advantage as she slowed the tempo down through a half-mile in 47.80, while Alvarado had a tight hold aboard Call Me Love, with 6-5 favorite Virginia Joy inching closer to her outside.
Around the far turn, Call Me Love found herself last of five in the tightly packed field as Virginia Joy joined Mutamakina and Delta’s Kingdom in pursuit on the front end. Alvarado weaved Call Me Love several paths wide at the top of the stretch as Mutamakina, Virginia Joy and Delta’s Kingdom all battled for control. The latter threw in the towel just past the furlong marker as Mutamakina and Virginia Joy duked it out on the front end.
In the final strides, Call Me Love prevailed, completing the 12-furlong journey in 2:27.59. Virginia Joy finished a head to the better of Mutamakina, who rounded out the trifecta. Delta’s Kingdom and Civil Union completed the order of finish.
Pallas Athene, Luck Money and main track only entrant Thankful were scratched.
Call Me Love, who returned $17 for a $2 win wager, registered her second consecutive victory for the first time since capturing the Group 3 Premio Verziere Memorial Aldo Cirla at San Siro and the Group 2 Premio Lydia Tesio at Capannelle to close out her 2019 season. The River Memories conquest upped her lifetime earnings to $613,121 through a 16-7-2-3 record.
Clement said the stretch out in distance benefitted Call Me Love.
“Call Me Love has been a bit unlucky in the past,” said Clement, who closed out the meet with five stakes victories. “I’ve probably been running her a bit shorter than I should have done looking back at today’s performance.
“Mutamakina always gives a good account of herself and even if she got beat today, I thought she ran a good race,” Clement added. “The plan was for Junior to be comfortable on the lead or close to the pace and for Rosario [aboard Mutamakina] to wait and be comfortable as well. But the other horse didn’t break that well and Joel ended up on the lead and was very comfortable.”
Alvarado, who also captured his fifth stakes win of the meet, said he was hoping to be on the lead, but he had to call an audible when Call Me Love broke a touch slow.
“This is the kind of race that you have to figure it out when they open the gate,” Alvarado said. “I was supposed to be on the lead – even Christophe said I could be the speed of the race – but she broke a little flat-footed. Going a mile and a half, I didn’t want to rush her to go to the lead. She did it nice and quiet. Turning for home, she started picking up very nicely.”
Bred in Great Britain by Grundy Bloodstock SRL, Call Me Love is by multiple Group 1 winner Sea The Stars, and is out of the Rainbow Quest mare Fresnay.
Live action resumes on Thursday afternoon for Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course. The first day of racing for the prestigious 40-day meet is spearheaded by the Grade 3, $120,000 Quick Call for 3-year-olds going 5 ½ furlongs over the Mellon turf course and the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville for juvenile fillies going six furlongs over the main track. First post is 1:05 p.m.Eastern.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the 40-day summer meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Ryan Martin/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Call Me Love (Chelsea Durand)