HENDERSON, KY— The venue may have changed for Last Leaf this weekend. The result did not.
In her first start outside of Gulfstream Park, the daughter of Not This Time continued to produce the kind of her effort that has spoiled her connections during her sophomore campaign as she took command in the final furlong en route to capturing the $100,000 Runhappy Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park on Aug. 14 for her third straight stakes victory.
Trained by Ronald Spatz for owners Monarch Stables, Inc., Last Leaf has gotten good and stayed that way after beginning her 2022 season with a trio of losses. Following a fourth-place finish in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on March 5, Last Leaf wheeled back to take the Melody of Colors Stakes going five furlongs on the turf at the Hallandale Beach oval on March 26.
Since running fifth in the Roar Stakes on the Gulfstream turf, Last Leaf has gone back to the main track and found her best form, posting victories in the Game Face and Azalea Stakes at Gulfstream prior to making her maiden voyage to the Bluegrass State.
During her current win streak, Last Leaf has shown she can sit wherever her jockey asks and on Sunday, she tracked along in eighth while longshot Gata Runz cut fractions of :22.44. As race favorite Gunning took over to reach the half-mile mark in :45.48, Last Leaf loomed up on the outside in fourth with jockey Rafael Bejarano still yet to ask for her best run.
“I just wanted to have good position in the beginning,” Bejarano said. “I know this filly in the last few races didn’t break really good, but…she really helped me out today. She was in a great position and by the three eighths, she got clear on the outside.”
Sent off at 3-1 odds, Last Leaf used her momentum off the turn to take the lead at the head of the lane and continued to stride out as she reached the wire 1 ¾ lengths in front of runner-up Take a Stand, covering the seven furlongs in 1:24.69 over a track rated fast.
Gunning was third with Optionality fourth.
A veteran of 15 career starts, Last Leaf has seven wins overall with earnings of $332,647. She was bred in Kentucky by Khalid Mishref Alkahtani out of the Paddy O’Prado mare My Miss Kallie.
Ellis Park Press Release
Photo: Last Leaf wins the Audobon Oaks (Coady Photography)