INGLEWOOD, Calif. (December 1, 2013)—Egg Drop, a 10-1 shot, defeated fellow gray and 8-1 outsider Discreet Marq by a nose in the $250,000 Matriarch Sunday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The closest finish in the history of a race first run in 1981 was the second of two Grade I races offered on the final day of the Turf Festival.
A little more than an hour before Egg Drop’s thrilling victory, Seek Again, who was making his United States debut, powered past eight other 3-year-olds in the $251,000 Hollywood Derby.
A 4-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup and the Adhocracy mare Rehocracy, Egg Drop has blossomed since being introduced to turf by trainer Mike Mitchell earlier this year.
After making seven starts on either dirt or synthetic surfaces, Egg Drop has captured four of five on grass and her Matriarch success came after consecutive Grade II wins in the Yellow Ribbon Handicap Sept. 2 at Del Mar and Goldikova Stakes Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.
Owned by Little Red Feather Racing, the Florida-bred, who has been ridden by Martin Garcia in all of her turf races, has won half of her 12 starts. She’s earned $494,020 and completed the mile Sunday in 1:34.03.
Breaking from the rail in the field of nine, Egg Drop quickly established command and relaxed well through 23.86, 47.26 and 1:10.52 fractions with Discreet Marq her closest pursuer.
“The race set up as we planned,’’ said Garcia. “I let her break cleanly and she was running very comfortably and when I asked her to go she responded.
“(Discreet Marq) went by me very easily, but my filly never gave up and came back. That was a very tough race and she was able to get the job done.’’
It remains to be seen whether or not Egg Drop will continue to race in 2014.
“I’m going to celebrate this right now,’’ said Billy Koch, the founder and managing partner of Little Red Feather. “I know her value right now is about as high as it’s ever going to be.
“I’ll talk to the partners and I’ll talk to (Mitchell) and see how she comes out of this race and then we’ll make a decision about next year.’’
A New York bred daughter of Discreet Cat who won the Grade I Del Mar Oaks Aug. 17 in her first visit to California, Discreet Marq engaged the winner early in the stretch, gained the lead under jockey Rafael Bejarano inside the final eighth, but the gritty Egg Drop battled back to earn the narrowest of victories.
Never higher than 7-1 before Sunday, Egg Drop paid $23.20, $11 and $6.20. Discreet Marq, who has been 1-2-3 in 11 of her 12 starts on grass, returned $10 and $5.80. She finished a half-length in front of defending champion Better Lucky.
The show price on the Ghostzapper filly, who paid a record $72.20 when she won the 2012 Matriarch, was $4.20.
Dayatthespa, the 7-2 second choice, was a half-length back in fourth and she was followed by 19-10 favorite Tiz Flirtatious, Wishing Gate, Pianist, Stormy Lucy and My Gi Gi.
Thirty years after winning a division of the Hollywood Derby with the brilliant filly Royal Heroine, trainer John Gosden was successful again Sunday with Seek Again, a son of Speigtstown making his initial appearance in a group or graded stakes.
Winner of the $39,990 Coral Mobile Stakes in his most recent start – Oct. 12 at York – in Great Britain, Seek Again accelerated along the rail to gain the lead inside pacesetter and 3-1 second choice Rookie Sensation with about an eighth of a mile to run and spurted clear.
Owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms, Seek Again was ridden by Corey Nakatani, who has more winners than any jockey in Turf Festival history. Sunday’s score by 1 ½ lengths was Nakatani’s 15th, five more than runner-up Alex Solis.
Out of the mare Light Jig, a multiple graded stakes winner for Juddmonte whose successes included the 2004 Beverly Hills at Hollywood Park for the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, Seek Again won for the fourth time in eight starts. The $150,000 payday pushed his bankroll to $219,030.
Reserved while saving ground throughout, Seek Again, who was racing on Lasix for the first time, completed the 1 ¼ miles in 2:00.60. He paid $12.40, $7.40 and $5.80.
“We didn’t clear quarantine until Saturday morning, so it’s not been ideal,’’ said Gosden’s assistant Les Reynolds. “We just jogged around once Saturday. I thought maybe he needed a couple of more days, but we were always happy with him.
“(Nakatani) gave him a great ride. We were worried there was going to be no pace, but there was enough pace, wasn’t there?
“He’s been a horse that’s been slow to himself. He just took a while to get going. I told Corey to make sure he changed leads because he might be a little inexperienced against these guys, but he did it well and I’m very, very pleased.’’
Reynolds added that Seek Again will remain in the United States for his 4-year-old campaign. The chestnut will be shipped Monday to the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“I was extremely confident,’’ said Nakatani. “Any time you see the Juddmonte colors and a horse shipping from England, you know they’re going to have a big turn of foot and it’s just a matter if they can handle the tighter turns. He seemed to handle it.
“I was very excited to ride again for Juddmonte and try to win a Grade I for them. My main thing was to get him to break decently and get him into a rhythm.’’
Owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey completed the Hollywood Derby exacta and trifecta as Admiral Kitten and Amen Kitten ran, respectively, second and third.
Winner of the Grade I Secretariat at the Hollywood Derby distance Aug. 17 at Arlington Park, Admiral Kitten ($4 and $3.40) finished well as the 3-1 favorite while three-quarters of a length in front of Amen Kitten, the longest shot in the field at 39-1. The show price on Amen Kitten was $12.80.
Completing the order of finish were Gervinho, Rookie Sensation, who, surprisingly made the lead through slow splits (24.49, 48.74, 1:13.20 and 1:37.20 for the mile) after rallying from well off the pace for two previous wins on turf, Jack Milton, Infinite Magic and Dry Summer, who wound up in a dead heat for seventh, and Irish Surf. Dice Flavor was scratched Sunday morning.
Racing resumes Thursday. Post time is 12:30 p.m. Track gates at Betfair Hollywood Park will open at 9:55 a.m. for simulcasts.
The Betfair Hollywood Park Players’ Club will be open for dark day simulcasts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission is free.
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