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2023 Jockey Club Oaks Preview | Last Call Could Give Attard Another Major Victory
Last Call (Michael Burns Photography)

2023 Jockey Club Oaks Preview | Last Call Could Give Attard Another Major Victory

Trainer Kevin Attard, who celebrated two major victories in Canada this week, will hope to add to his recent accolades as he sends out Grade 1-winner Last Call in Saturday’s Grade 3, $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks Invitational, a 1 3/8-mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies, at Belmont at the Big A.

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.

The Jockey Club Oaks is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. 

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Attard sent out reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Moira to win Saturday’s Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine, as well as Velocitor to win yesterday’s Prince of Wales – the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown – at Fort Erie. Lanni Bloodstock and SF Racing’s Last Call vies to provide Attard with more stakes success as she takes on six rivals in the fourth running of the Jockey Club Oaks.

Last Call wheels back on 13 days’ rest after finishing a closing fourth in the Dueling Grounds Oaks traveling 1 5/16 miles on September 3 at Kentucky Downs. There, she stretched out beyond one mile for the first time and was 12 lengths back at the half-mile call, but steadily improved position under Joel Rosario to narrowly miss show honors by a neck, finishing 5 3/4 lengths back of the victorious Freydis the Red.

“It’s coming back a little quick, but she came out of the race in good order and is doing well, so we kind of figured we’ll take a stab at it,” said Attard. “I thought she ran well last time. It’s a different course and she was a little lost and confused early in the race, but she made a good rally and stalled a little in traffic. We ran a game fourth and we were very pleased.”

The daughter of English Channel graduated at third asking in memorable fashion, posting a 21-1 upset in the Grade 1 Natalma last September at Woodbine as the longest price of three entrants for Attard. Though winless in five starts since, the chestnut filly finished a rallying sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to close out her 2-year-old season and has hit the board in two sprint stakes this season at Woodbine in the Ruling Angel [second] over Tapeta in May and the Alywow [third] on turf in June.

Attard said distance and maturity will likely benefit Last Call, whose full brother English Tavern is multiple stakes-placed at nine-furlongs on the turf.

“Her pedigree leans towards stretching out and getting a little better as she gets older,” said Attard. “She got ready early as a 2-year-old and she was fortunate enough to win the Natalma and then take us to the Breeders’ Cup. I thought she ran a credible race there, but here in Canada there’s not many races that go a route of ground beyond a mile and an eighth for open-breds, and in her mile races, she had a little rough luck. I thought she was relaxing good and galloping out good, so we were looking forward for the opportunity to stretch her out.”

Last Call, a $30,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, will exit post 1 in rein to Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Walmac Farm, Gainseway Stable and Haras d’Etreham’s Group 3-winner Speirling Beag will look to capture her first American victory for conditioner Graham Motion on the heels of a narrow defeat in the 1 1/16-mile Searching on August 13 at Laurel Park. The Irish-bred daughter of Mastercraftsman made up ground late in the stretch when closing from sixth-of-8, but came up a nose shy of victory behind Bolivie, who is entered in Friday’s Winter Memories at the Big A. Speirling Beag was awarded a 79 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

“It’s a good opportunity for a lot of money with a filly who seems to be doing well,” said Motion. “I thought she was pretty unlucky last time to be honest. The distance is a question mark, but I think it’s something that could be within her scope.”

Speirling Beag made her debut for Motion in the Belmont Oaks after finishing fifth in the Group 3 Prix Penelope at Saint-Cloud in her lone outing for conditioners Alessandro and Giuseppe Botti. She made her first six starts for trainer James Bolger in her native Ireland, which included a nose triumph from off the pace in the nine-furlong Group 3 Eyrefield in October over soft footing at Leopardstown. In the Belmont Oaks, she again was given a stalking trip by Hall of Famer John Velazquez and was off a step slow, but made up ground down the backstretch and finished sixth 2 3/4 lengths back of the victorious Aspen Grove.

“I think that effort gives me confidence to take another shot,” said Motion. “We hadn’t had her very long and she is certainly fitter now than she was then. It’s always a little bit of an unknown when these horses come to you about what they’ve been doing, and I feel more comfortable now having run her twice.”

Manny Franco has been tasked with the ride from post 7.

Godolphin’s Irish homebred Eternal Hope [post 6, Jamie Spencer] ships in for trainer Charlie Appleby after finishing a close third to Group 1-winner Jannah Rose in the 10-furlong Group 2 Sumbe Prix Alec Head over soft Deauville green on August 20. The runner-up in that event, Lumiere Rock, exited to win the Group 2 Blanford on Monday at The Curragh.

Eternal Hope’s latest effort was a strong improvement from a distant seventh-place finish in the Group 1 Epsom Oaks on June 2 where she raced evenly throughout and failed to fire. The Teofilo chestnut, whose dam Voice of Truth is a half-sister to multiple group-winner and sire Rio de La Plata, graduated at second asking going 10 furlongs in February at Chelmsford ahead of a successful stakes debut when taking the Oaks Trial in May at Lingfield.

Joyce Young’s Highland Grace [post 5, Javier Castellano] makes her stakes debut for trainer Barclay Tagg on the back of two victories this summer at Belmont Park. The American Pharoah bay was last seen notching a 1 1/2-length allowance coup on July 4 going 10 furlongs over yielding footing in an effort that garnered a career-best 81 Beyer. That win followed a fifth-out graduation on June 3 traveling the Jockey Club Oaks distance, as well a close runner-up effort to next-out Grade 2 Wonder Again-winner Prerequisite in a May 7 maiden.

Completing the field are Marc Keller’s Kentucky homebred Quarrel [post 2, Jose Ortiz], a last-out allowance winner for trainer Bobby Ribaudo; Michael Milam’s stakes-winner Neecie Marie [post 3, Abner Adorno], who is cross-entered in Friday’s Winter Memories for trainer Butch Reid, Jr.; and R.T Racing Stable’s multiple stakes-placed Stephanie’s Charm [post 4, Junior Alvarado], who is on the also-eligible list for the Winter Memories for trainer Jose Jimenez.