Something will have to give in the $400,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park today.
Unless, of course, Toussaud and Flawlessly finish in a dead heat in the Grade I race.
Flawlessly, the two-time defending champion in the 1 1/8-mile Matriarch, is unbeaten in five starts on the Hollywood Park turf course. Toussaud is perfect in three tries, all of them during the spring-summer meeting earlier this year.
Almost certainly, the winner will earn the Eclipse award as the nation’s top female grass horse.
Since being switched to the turf early in her career, Flawlessly has won 12 of 16 races on the grass and has been second in three of her defeats.
The 5-year-old Affirmed mare wrapped up the Eclipse last year with a victory over Super Staff and Kostroma in a showdown between the top three contenders for divisional honors.
As a 3-year-old in 1991, she scored a 6-1 upset in the Matriarch, and if she wins again today, Flawlessly will become the first horse other than Native Diver to win the same Hollywood Park stake in three consecutive years. Native Diver won the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1965, ’66 and ’67.
“She’s as good as can be expected,” said trainer Charlie Whittingham, who was happy with Flawlessly’s 59 4/5 five-furlong workout Wednesday, her final major exercise for the Matriarch.
“She really thrives over this course. It’s a much firmer one (than Santa Anita’s) and she really moves well over it.”
What needs to be answered now is whether Flawlessly is as good as she was in 1991 and 1992. Lightly campaigned--she has raced only 22 times in her career--she won the Beverly Hills Handicap by nine lengths in her 1993 debut, but the margin was deceiving because of all the trouble the now-retired Jolypha encountered.
Brought back to defend her title in the Ramona Handicap at Del Mar, Flawlessly beat 27-1 longshot Heart Of Joy by a length, then backed into a victory in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park when Let’s Elope was disqualified after a lengthy debate.
The surprising 3-1 second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Flawlessly and regular rider Chris McCarron had a trouble-filled race and finished ninth of 13. Whittingham completely discounts the day.
“She got bumped very badly and the jock just galloped her around after he saw she had no chance,” Whittingham said.
Toussaud also had her share of trouble in the Mile, but managed to finish fourth. The 4-year-old El Gran Senor filly, trained by Bobby Frankel, could have been second with a little luck.
With Kent Desormeaux remaining in Japan after riding Kotashaan in today’s Japan Cup, Gary Stevens will be aboard Toussaud for the first time in the Matriarch. Stevens will also ride in the Japan Cup--he has the mount on Breeders’ Cup Turf third-place finisher Luazur--but he will turn right around to be at Hollywood Park on Sunday.
Toussaud has won the Wilshire, Gamely and American Handicap over this course. She beat males in the American Handicap on July 4. Win or lose, the Matriarch will be her final start. She will be bred to Mr. Prospector next spring.
In a field weakened by the scratches of Far Mist and Twice The Vice, Tricky Code defeated 4-5 favorite Irish Forever by 1 1/4 lengths in the $250,000 Miesque.
Beaten by 14 lengths by Phone Chatter in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and by eight in the Oak Leaf, Tricky Code took advantage of the lesser competition in her first start on the turf.
After breaking through the gate, the 2-year-old Lost Code filly stalked the pace on the outside with Irish Forever to her inside, got the jump on her rival and went on to win in 1:35 for the mile under Corey Nakatani. She paid $8 as the 3-1 second choice.
“I hadn’t planned to run here,” trainer Gary Jones said. “My original plan was for the (Hollywood) Starlet (on Dec. 18). The reason she ran so well is because I wasn’t able to train her the way I wanted. But I’d rather be lucky than good. I had no idea what she’d do, although she had worked well on the grass.”
Irish Forever, who had been unbeaten in four previous starts on the turf at four tracks in the East, finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of 11-1 shot Roget’s Fact.
Three races later, favored Delineator made a successful transition to turf, beating 3-1 second choice Devon Port and six other 2-year-olds in the $250,000 Generous Stakes.
Supplemented to the Generous for $10,000 by owner Ron Crockett, Delineator has won four of his five starts. His three other victories came at Bay Meadows and his only loss came when he was second to Brocco in an allowance race during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Russell Baze for trainer Fordell Fierce, Delineator, a son of Storm Cat, paid $5.40 as the 8-5 choice.
Making his first start since March 14, River Special finished third as the 4-5 favorite in the $56,200 Bedside Promise Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday.
The one-time future book favorite for the Kentucky Derby broke slowly from the rail under Laffit Pincay, moved into second around the turn behind runaway winner Scherando, but was beaten by a nose for second in the final jump by Exemplary Leader.
Scherando, the 9-5 second choice in the field of five, won for the third time in five starts on the Hollywood Park main track, covering the six furlongs in 1:08 3/5. Trained by Richard Mulhall and ridden by David Flores, Scherando won by six lengths.
Bob Hess Jr., River Special’s trainer, wasn’t discouraged by the effort of his colt, who won the Del Mar and Hollywood Park futurities and the Norfolk Stakes as a 2-year-old.
“We would have liked to have won, but he ran well,” Hess said. “He’s tired right now, so the race did him a lot of good.”
Horse Racing Notes
Leger Cat will defend his title in the $250,000 Citation Handicap against seven opponents today. A winner of six of his nine starts on the Hollywood Park turf course, Leger Cat is the fifth longest shot in the field at 8-1 on the morning line. Johann Quatz, who finished seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, is the 5-2 choice in the 1 1/8-mile race.