Eternal Hope showing her speed in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational. (Chelsea Durand)
Belmont at the Big A Notes
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Godolphin’s Irish homebred Eternal Hope rallied from 23 lengths off the pace to capture Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Invitational Oaks, an 11-furlong inner turf test for sophomore fillies at Belmont at the Big A.
Trained by Charlie Appleby and patiently ridden by Jamie Spencer in her stateside debut, the Teofilo chestnut was off a step slow and trailed in last-of-7 before advancing through the final turn with a seven-wide run. Neecie Marie, who also raced near the back as Stephanie’s Charm set an ambitious pace through a 15-length advantage after three-quarters in 1:13.32, took an inside route to the finish. The two foes battled gamely to the wire with Eternal Hope prevailing by a neck over Neecie Marie in a final time of 2:16.47 over firm footing. Eternal Hope garnered an 82 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We thought there was going to be some pace in the race, but not quite that,” said Connett, with a laugh. “She was a bit tardy away, which we weren’t expecting. We’d hoped to sit a little handier than we were, but Jamie gave her a lovely Jamie Spencer ride and got her rolling early enough. Once she leveled out into the straight, she picked up pretty good considering she wasn’t really in love with the ground. It worked out well in the end.
“The runner-up got a lovely trip around up the inside and really rallied,” Connett added. “But I think once our filly got straightened out and Jamie got her on a level playing field, I was always confident she was going to get there.”
Eternal Hope captured the 12-furlong Oaks Trial over the Lingfield synthetic in May ahead of a distant seventh in the Group 1 Epsom Oaks in June. She arrived from a strong third-place finish in the 10-furlong Group 2 Prix Alec Head over soft going on August 20 at Deauville, finishing 1 1/2-lengths back of the victorious Group 1-winner Jannah Rose. The runner-up of that event, Lumiere Rock, came back to win the Group 2 Blandford last Sunday at The Curragh.
Connett said Eternal Hope exited the impressive win in good order.
“She seems to have pulled up really nicely. She ate up, looks fine and been out for a nice pick of grass – all good,” Connett said. “We’ll ship back on Tuesday and the team will make a plan from there.”
Eternal Hope’s victory was part of a strong showing Saturday by Appleby-trained Godolphin homebreds that saw a pair of runners compete in Grade 1 “Win and You’re In” events at Woodbine that featured a dominant win by Master of the Seas [104 BSF] in the Woodbine Mile and a troubled third from Dazzling Star [72 BSF] in the Natalma, which was won by She Feels Pretty.
Master of the Seas, a 5-year-old Dubawi gelding, entered from a strong score in the Group 2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile in July at Ascot.
“Master of the Seas ran a really nice race. He showed in his last run at Ascot that he’s back to himself and he traveled around nicely,” Connett said. “I thought the filly ran well. She was a little further back and didn’t have a clear path through, but she rallied pretty good. The winner ran nicely.”
Eternal Hope, who returned $4 for a $2 win bet as the even-money mutuel favorite, 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 $192,500 in victory while improving her record to 6-3-0-2.
The Jockey Club Oaks is the final leg of the Fasig-Tipton Fillies Turf Triple series, which began with Aspen Grove’s victory in the 10-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Belmont Oaks Invitational on July 8 at Belmont Park and saw Elusive Princess capture the middle leg in the 1 3/16-mile Grade 1, $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational on August 4 at Saratoga Race Course.