INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 28, 2009) — Bobby Frankel’s last wish came true Saturday as odds-on favorite Ventura won the $300,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, completing a Grade I double for the late Hall of Fame trainer’s stable.
Frankel, who died of lymphoma on Nov. 16, asked Juddmonte Farms to delay her retirement following the Breeders’ Cup, confident she could go out a winner in The Matriarch.
With two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez keeping Ventura within striking distance of dangerous front-runner Tuscan Evening, she easily took control in the stretch while running one mile on the Lakeside Turf Course in a stakes record 1:33.58 to win by 1 ¾ lengths.
The victory came on the second day of Hollywood Park’s 18th Turf Festival — one day after Fluke scored a 9-1 upset for the Frankel stable in the $300,000 Citation Handicap.
Humberto Ascanio, assistant to Frankel for 35 years, was the trainer of record, but he wasn’t concerned with personal accolades as he notched the first two official stakes wins of his career.
“That’s what I want — for him,” said the 62-year-old native of Guadalajara, Mexico. “I wanted this one more — for him. I wish she could stay one more year, but that’s the last call. And that’s why he wanted her in, he knew she was gonna win this one. They wanted to retire her a winner.”
Ventura, who beat males two starts back in the Woodbine Mile, was second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Nov. 7. She was due to be retired until Frankel made his thoughts known.
“It was Bobby’s last wish,” said Garrett O’Rourke, manaqer of Juddmonte Farms in Lexington, Ky. “He said so the Friday before he died. He called me up and I got the feeling it was the goodbye phone call. And he told me that he was scared and what he was going to do — not take anymore of the transfusions. And he paused — that chokes anyone up — then he turned around and said, ‘talk to Humberto, we’re still going with Ventura, right? Just tell him two easy half miles and she will be there.’ He knew he was going in days, and still, it was that important to him.
“Obviously they are all special,” he added. “Over the years Bobby developed a few favorites. Most of them were fillies and she was definitely one of them. She can be a mean devil and he used to laugh at that because she was all personality and he was all personality, himself.”
Gomez rode Ventura in all 13 of her North American starts, never finishing out of the money. She won seven times, finished second five times and third once. Saturday’s pot of $300,000 boosted the 5-year-old’s earnings to $2,880,530.
“She’s just been amazing,” he said. “She’s probably one of the best fillies I’ve ever ridden going a mile. Actually she IS the best filly I’ve ridden going a mile. She has the most explosive turn of foot I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to see her go. I wish she could stick around another year. I actually think she’s better now than she was as a 4-year-old. In a lot of her other races she tried to pull herself up, but today when I asked her to go, she went and accelerated and ran away from them. But she’s got another career in front of her now and hopefully she’ll send some of her babies my way.”
Ventura paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10. Tuscan Evening returned $2.80 and $2.20, while the show payoff on Diamondrella was $2.40.
In the co-feature, 9-1 shot Who’s Up overhauled favorite and pacesetter Bridgetown early in the stretch and went on to score a 1 ¾-length victory over Marcello in the $100,000 Generous Stakes.
Who’s Up, the second Generous Stakes winner for trainer Kathy Walsh, covered one mile on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:34.39 to win his second straight start since being shifted to the grass after two races on the main track.
The Florida-bred son of Graeme Hall paid $21.80, $8.40 and $6.40. Marcello returned $13.20 and $9, while third-place finisher Lucky Rave paid $10.40. Bridgetown faded to fourth in the field of eight 2-year-olds.
“We probably ran him back too soon at Del Mar,” said Walsh, who saddled 1997 Generous winner Mantles Star. “We jumped him into the Futurity just 16 days after he broke his maiden and you just can’t do that with a young horse.”
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