Last Leaf Gets the Last Laugh in Azalea
Sunday, July 17, 2022
    HALLANDALE BEACH - Monarch Stable’s Last Leaf added another page to her growing resume Saturday at Gulfstream Park with a dominating 3 ½-length victory in the $75,000 Azalea.

    The Azalea, a seven-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies, headlined Saturday’s 11-race program that also featured the $55,000 Hallandale Beach, a mile-and-70-yard overnight handicap for 3-year-olds and up on Tapeta.

    Last Leaf established herself as a multiple stakes-winner on both turf and dirt with a thoroughly professional performance, in which leading jockey Miguel Vasquez rated her a few lengths behind the early pace before sweeping into the stretch and drawing away.

     Poiema, the 3-2 favorite on the strength of a dazzling front-running optional claim claiming allowance victory last time out, set a comfortable early pace under Edgar Perez, setting fractions of :23.04 and :45.26 seconds for a half-mile with Maryquitecontrary and Stellar Ride in close pursuit. After monitoring the pace in fifth, Vasquez asked Last Leaf for her run, and the daughter of Not This Time responded with an eye-catching outside move to challenge Poiema at the top of the stretch. The tiring favorite was no match for the Ron Spatz-trained Last Leaf, who went on to score with authority.

    “It was a perfect race for her,” Spatz said. “We all went into the race a little concerned about Poiema’s monster race last time, but I loved the post position. She got to sit just off it and she inhaled them.”

    Last Leaf, the second betting choice at 9-5, ran seven furlongs in 1:23.02. Maryquitecontrary, a First Dude filly, held second, a neck ahead of Stellar Ride.

    Last Leaf beat the boys on turf last fall in the Hollywood Beach at Gulfstream, where she also captured the Melody of Colors on turf March 26. The Kentucky-bred filly came into the Azalea off a sharp 3 ½-length triumph in the June 18 Game Face on dirt.

    “She's small but mighty,” Spatz said.

Saffie Joseph Jr. Saddles Hallandale Beach Trifecta

    Daniel Alonso’s Novo Sol made a three-wide sweep on the far turn on his way to a hard-fought victory over stablemates Calibrator and Renaisance Frolic in the Hallandale Beach. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. saddled the first three finishers in the mile-and-70-yard overnight handicap for 3-year-olds and up on Tapeta.

    Novo Sol, the 8-5 second betting choice ridden by Junior Alvarado, finished two lengths ahead of Calibrator, the 6-5 favorite who set the pace under Edgar Zayas. Renaisance Frolic closed to finish third, another three-quarters of a length back.

    Novo Sol, a 5-year-old Group 1 stakes-placed son of Agnes Gold, had finished third in the Gr. III Pan American on turf at Gulfstream before finishing off the board in graded stakes appearances at Pimlico and Belmont in his two most recent outings. Novo Sol ran a mile and 70 yards on the all-weather surface in 1:42.88.
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