INGLEWOOD, Calif. (November 25, 2012)—Better Lucky, a $5,000 late nominee, scored the biggest upset in the history of the Grade I, $250,000 Matriarch (video) Sunday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
A little more than two hours later, the New York bred Unbridled Command, a 7-1 shot, won his fifth race in a row and became a Grade I winner in the process, taking the $250,000 Hollywood Derby, (video) the final event of the three-day Turf Festival.
Owned by Godolphin Racing LLC, trained by Tom Albertrani and ridden by Eddie Castro, Better Lucky, a daughter of Ghostzapper, returned $72.20 for the most significant victory of her career. This easily eclipsed the $63.40 Duda paid when she won the 1995 Matriarch for owner Madeleine Paulson and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Content to track while Summer Soiree opened a clear advantage through the first six furlongs, Better Lucky gained the lead inside the final eighth of a mile and repelled the late bid of 7-1 shot Tiz Flirtatious to win by one length.
Completing the mile in 1:34.18, Better Lucky, who is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Sahara Gold, earned her fourth win in nine starts and pushed her earnings to $438,950. She’s 2-for-5 on grass and became the seventh 3-year-old filly – and second in a row – to win the Matriarch.
“I had a good break, but I got really scared when (Dayatthespa) had trouble near the fence,’’ said Castro after his first Betfair Hollywood Park stakes win. “My filly gave me a real nice kick and that was good enough to win today.
Never higher than 15-1 in her career, Better Lucky was dismissed Sunday even though she had finished only 2 ½ lengths behind Dayatthespa, who was fifth in the Matriarch, in the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Oct. 13 at Keeneland.
“I was surprised at her odds,’’ said Godolphin’s racing manager Jimmy Bell. “I really felt if they (the betting public) respected Dayatthespa, you wouldn’t necessarily think that we would be a 30-1 shot. She’s really blossomed.
“This is certainly a great way to cap off this year. She’s very game, tries and is dead honest. I would think she’d surely be racing next year.’’
Trying to become the first California bred winner of the Matriarch, Tiz Flirtatious rallied strongly in the final quarter of a mile to finish 2 ¼ lengths in front of 21-1 outsider Summer Soiree, who was making what will probably be her final start for Team Valor International and trainer H. Graham Motion.
Tiz Flirtatious, who is undefeated in four races against state breds, paid $8.00 and $5.80 while the show price on Summer Soiree, who finished second in the 2011 Matriarch, was $9. The longshot trifecta was worth $3,018.80 for $1.
Dayattthespa, the 17-10 favorite who entered with five consecutive turf wins in 2012, finished a neck behind fourth place finisher Future Generation.
Her subpar performance came after some self-caused trouble early in the race.
“She was scared a little bit running inside of horses,’’ said jockey Javier Castellano, who did well to remain aboard the daughter of City Zip when she propped. “She got shy of that other horse (Future Generation) and jumped out around the first turn. She wasn’t the same after that.’’
Rafael Bejarano, who rode Tiz Flirtatious for the first time since he was aboard for her debut win nearly 14 months ago, thought Dayatthespa’s antics cost Tiz Flirtatious the win.
“I had a good trip, but it cost me the race when she hit the rail and forced me to come out,’’ he said. “I think my horse would have won if it not for that incident.’’
Emulous, the 2-1 second choice, never got involved after leaving slowly in her United States debut. Defending champion Star Builling and Vamo a Galupiar completed the order of finish.
Owned by co-breeder Lewis Lakin and trained by Tom Bush, Unbridled Command handled a class bump and a trip from his home state with aplomb. The Hollywood Derby win was his sixth in 10 career starts.
A gray son of Master Command out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unbridled Betty, Unbridled Command completed the 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.07. The $150,000 payday increased his bankroll to $469,040.
Ridden by Castellano, Unbridled Command, who hasn’t lost since finishing third in a New York bred allowance May 5 at Belmont Park, paid $16, $7.20 and $6.
Outrun early while My Best Brother set the pace, Unbridled Command began to improve his position while some four wide down the backside. He moved into second approaching the stretch, easily took over from a tiring My Best Brother with a little less than three sixteenths of a mile remaining, drew clear and won by 1 ½ lengths.
Never worse than third in nine starts on turf, Unbridled Command is undefeated in two races outside the state bred ranks. He won the Grade III Saranac Sept. 2 at Saratoga.
“I had a beautiful trip this time and everything worked out perfect,’’ said Castellano. “I saw the horses started backing out and I chose to go around and everything worked out perfect. I knew the closers would show up down the lane, but I was able to get the jump on them. This was my first time on this horse. I watched his race replays and I was very impressed and really liked him.’’
Bush said Unbridled Command was to fly to Palm Meadows in Florida later in the evening and will be pointed to a race at Gulfstream Park.
“He likes to track on the turns,’’said Bush. “He just matures from race to race to race. I couldn’t dream of a horse developing any nicer than this horse. He’s really gotten special.’’
Grandeur, the lukewarm 7-2 favorite after winning the Grade II Twilight Derby in his U.S. debut Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, rallied for second after being last of 14 for most of the 10 furlongs.
The Irish bred paid $4.80 and $3.60. Lucky Chappy, a 15-1 outsider, was a head back in third and returned $7.60 to show.
Garrett Gomez, who rode Grandeur, said the gray gelding had to alter course turning for home. “It wasn’t the smoothest of trips,’’ he said. “The winner snuck away from us.’’
Grandeur’s trainer, Jeremy Noseda, indicated the son of Verglas could return in the Grade II, $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, which is run at 1 ½ miles, Dec. 15.
Rjwa was fourth, 2 ½ lengths behind Lucky Chappy and she was followed by Power Foot, Summer Front, My Best Brother, All Squared Away, Big Bane Theory, Handsome Mike, Golden Ticket, Smart Ellis, General Logan and Speaking of Which.
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