Eternal Hope lands the victory in the Sands Point (Susie Raisher)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK N.Y.— For the second start in a row, Godolphin’s Irish homebred Eternal Hope came out on the winning end of a dramatic stretch battle with Neecie Marie when keeping her newfound foe at bay in Saturday’s 29th running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Sands Point for sophomore fillies going nine furlongs on the inner turf at Belmont at the Big A.
Eternal Hope and Neecie Marie replicated the exacta from the Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks Invitational going 11 furlongs on September 16 over the local course, where the former held off the latter’s late rally to win by a neck for trainer Charlie Appleby. The Teofilo chestnut once more got the better of Neecie Marie, staving off her outside rally to hold on for a half-length triumph.
“She has a big heart. She fights. She knows her business,” said Sophie Chretien, assistant to the Newmarket-based Appleby. “She really fights to the end. At some stage, I was scared of the filly coming on the outside, but she responded to beat her on the post. She’s a very brave filly.”
Under jockey Jamie Spencer, Eternal Hope was away easy from post 6 as Grade 1-winner Leave No Trace, who was making her turf debut, took command leaving the chute and led through a moderate opening quarter-mile in 24.42 seconds over the yielding inner turf. Quarrel tracked 1 1/2 lengths behind in second with Eternal Hope to their outside in the clear from third.
Leave No Trace extended her early advantage to 2 1/2 lengths through a half-mile in 49.59 with jockey Kendrick Carmouche on a tight hold aboard Quarrell back in second. Eternal Hope and Grade 1-placed Be Your Best battled for third as Neecie Marie moved up into contention to their outside.
Quarrel inherited command from a retreating Leave No Trace nearing the far turn through three-quarters in 1:15.22 as Spencer began asking more of Eternal Hope and Neecie Marie poised to menace under Abner Adorno to her outside. Quarrel remained the one to catch in upper stretch with Eternal Hope and Neecie Marie launching their rallies. Passing the chute, Eternal Hope put her head in front from a backpedaling Quarrel, but a resilient Neecie Marie continued to fight it out through the stretch. Eternal Hope had enough to keep her rival at bay and held on to post a half-length triumph in a final time of 1:53.56. Neecie Marie finished second 1 3/4 lengths ahead of the late-closing Highland Grace, who finished fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks.
Completing the order of finish were Alpha Bella, Root Cause, Quarrel, Be Your Best, and Leave No Trace. Soviet Excess and Stephanie’s Charm were scratched along with main-track only entrants Essaouira, Amanda’s Folly and Ichiban.
Spencer, who was in the irons for Eternal Hope’s Jockey Club Oaks conquest, said the circumstances were better for today’s race.
“She’s very genuine. She had a better break today and obviously a shorter trip, so I had to maximize her stamina,” Spencer said. “She was very brave from the half-mile pole because I was just lacking a little bit of speed and I was getting pressure from the outside. She fought her corner on the turn and in the straight, I always knew I was going to win because [she’s an] English turf horse and horses [were] starting to get tired. She was always going to keep going, and that’s what she did in the end.
“Stamina came into play, and class,” added Spencer. “Going back to nine furlongs from eleven furlongs last time – she only got up in the last strides last time, so we had to change things up a little bit. Charlie [Appleby] was pretty confident.”
Eternal Hope, now 2-for-2 in North America, picked up her fourth lifetime win after scoring in a 10-furlong maiden weight for age in February at Chelmsford followed by a victory going 12 furlongs in the Oaks Trial in May at Lingfield, both races were contested over a synthetic surface. Prior to the Jockey Club Oaks, Eternal Hope was seventh in the Group 1 Epsom Oaks in June at Epsom Downs and third in the Group 2 Prix Alec Head in August over soft ground at Deauville.
The Sands Point coup also provided Appleby, Godolphin and Spencer with a second straight day of North American graded glory after capturing Friday’s Grade 3 Sycamore at Keeneland with Bold Act, who broke the 12-furlong event’s stakes record.
Spencer has been in demand on all corners of the globe, piloting West Wind Blows to a runner-up effort in last Saturday’s Group 1 Turnbull at Flemington Racecourse in Australia.
“I have had a busy time traveling, but you don’t mind the traveling when the horses are getting the luck,” Spencer said.
Butch Reid, Jr., the trainer of Pennsylvania-bred Neecie Marie, was full of praise for his now dual graded stakes-placed daughter of Cross Traffic as well as jockey Abner Adorno.
“He did a good job. We had that horse hemmed in there a little bit, but he kind of pushed his way out. Abner did a great job. I thought he rode a fine race,” Reid, Jr. said. “She was up a little closer than I thought she would be today, but it seemed like everybody was trying to put their horses in the hunt on that really soft turf course to see who could handle it and who couldn’t. I thought we had her at the eighth-pole, but that horse is very strong and we couldn’t get by her.”
Eternal Hope, who returned $5 for a $2 win bet, is out of the Dubawi mare Voice of Truth, who is a half-sister to multiple group-winner and sire Rio de La Plata. She banked $110,000 in victory which enhanced her lifetime earnings to $358,183 and record to 7-4-0-2.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont at the Big A with a nine-race card. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.