Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who never won the prestigious Matriarch Stakes as a rider, will try to win the $300,000, Grade I test as a trainer with Diamondrella on Nov. 28 at Hollywood Park.
Diamondrella, a Grade I stakes-winning 5-year-old mare, was an unexpected addition last week to the Santa Anita barn of Stevens, who began training in May.
“I got a surprise call early Thursday morning,” said Stevens Sunday from Santa Anita. “Michael (Iavarone, head of owner IEAH Stables) informed me that she was coming. It was a big confidence booster.”
Diamondrella was shipped to Kentucky for the Fasig-Tipton Sale in Lexington after finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Nov. 7, but was bought back by IEAH and flown back to California by way of Indianapolis early Friday morning.
Diamondrella, based in New York most of the year, enjoyed a banner campaign under previous trainer Angel Penna, winning three of five starts, including two Grade I races: the Just A Game at Belmont and the First Lady at Keeneland.
Both victories were at one mile on turf, the same distance as The Matriarch for fillies and mares. Career-wise, the English-bred daughter of Rock of Gibraltar has won eight of 18 starts and earned $784,576.
“The Matriarch is the target,” said Stevens, who plans to supplement the mare for $6,000. “She showed up in great shape. Angel did a great job with her. I just walked her this morning.”
The Matriarch was one of the few major stakes in Southern California that eluded Stevens as a jockey. He finished second twice behind champion Flawlessly, with Fire The Groom in 1991 and Toussaud in 1993.
Diamondrella’s toughest competition is expected from multiple Grade I stakes winner Ventura, to be ridden by Garrett Gomez for trainer Bobby Frankel.
Other probable starters include Tuscan Evening, Rutherienne and April Pride.
Mrs Kipling, another nominee, worked six furlongs on turf here Sunday in 1:14 for trainer Neil Drysdale, who said both the 3-year-old filly and Cat By The Tale — third-place finisher in the Las Palmas Handicap — are under Matriarch consideration.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, who shipped Court Vision from Florida to win the Hollywood Derby last year, seeks to duplicate that feat with Al Khali in the $300,000, Grade I race Nov. 29.
Hollywood Park stakes co-ordinator Dan Eidson reported Sunday from the racing office that Mott will supplement the ridgling for $6,000 for the 1 ¼-mile turf test for 3-year-olds and ship him west.
Al Khali, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, has been training at Payson Park. He won the Grade III Saranac Stakes at Saratoga in August and has captured four of 11 starts overall.
Several other leading 3-year-olds are also expected to supplement: Oak Tree Derby winner The Usual Q.T. for Jim Cassidy; Juddmonte Farms’ World Heritage, placed in three graded stakes in France for Pascal Bary; Hawthorne Derby runner-up Sir Al for Bill Morey, and Grassy, fourth-place finisher in the Jamaica Handicap for Christophe Clement.
Nominees considered probable include Virginia Derby winner Battle of Hastings for Jeff Mullins, Secretariat Stakes runner-up Black Bear Island for Julio Canani, La Jolla Handicap winner Meteore for Richard Mandella and Jamaica winner Take The Points for Todd Pletcher.
Battle of Hastings worked four furlongs on turf in :49.80 here Sunday under Garrett Gomez.
Proudinsky hopes the third time is the charm in the $300,000 Citation Handicap, a Grade I test at 1 1/16 miles on turf Nov. 27.
The 6-year-old German-bred horse signaled his readiness for the race by working six furlongs in 1:13.20 on Cushion Track Sunday under exercise rider Jose Dominguez.
Proudinsky, trained by Bobby Frankel, finished third in the 2007 Citation and fourth last year after jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. lost his whip in the stretch.
Proudinsky, a triple Grade II stakes winner, has captured six of 20 starts and earned $1,117,953.
Fluke, another Frankel trainee under Citation consideration, also worked six furlongs on Cushion Track under Dominguez, in 1:12. Fluke, a 4-year-old Brazilian-bred colt, won an allowance race on the Belmont Park turf in his last start in September.
Other nominees under serious consideration include Cowboy Cal, Ever A Friend, El Gato Malo, Whatsthescript, Global Hunter and Times Gone By.
Dan Eidson, stakes co-ordinator, reported that Skyrush, fourth-place finisher in the Oak Tree Mile, was supplemented for $6,000 by trainer Darrell Vienna, and that Blue Chagall, winner of the Lure Mile, was likely to follow suit for conditioner Julio Canani.
Trainer Eoin Harty is excited about the prospects of American Lion, scheduled to make his California debut in the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes, a Grade III test for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs Saturday.
“He was very impressive breaking his maiden,” said Harty Sunday of the WinStar Farm homebred colt, who drew off to win by 6 ½ lengths at seven furlongs in his second start at Keeneland on Oct. 18.
“It’s a big step up, but I think he’s up to the task,” said Harty. “He’s a big colt. He looks like a combination of Tiznow (his sire) and Storm Cat (sire of his dam, Storm Tide).”
Julien Leparoux, national earnings leader who rode the colt to his maiden score at Keeneland, will be in from Kentucky to ride.
Other probable starters include the John Sadler-trained duo of Heir Joe (Joel Rosario) and Hurricane Ike (Rafael Bejarano), Indian Firewater (Garrett Gomez) for four-time Prevue winner Bob Baffert, Pico Pico (Alex Solis) and Seattle Ruler (Martin Garcia).
Seattle Ruler worked five furlongs in 59 seconds Sunday for trainer Mike Harrington.
Trainer Mark Glatt hopes restraint is rewarded after watching It Tiz work five furlongs in a bullet 58.60 seconds Sunday under exercise rider Jesse Uribe for the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at seven furlongs next Sunday.
Glatt passed up the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with the promising filly following a pair of fourth-place finishes in the Darley Debutante and Oak Leaf Stakes and instead chose a more conservative route, winning a $40,000 allowance race at one mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 29 in her last start.
“She’s still learning,” explained Glatt. “I figured she might not be ready for that level (Breeders’ Cup) yet.”
Instead Glatt hopes the Tiznow filly can use the Moccasin as a springboard for the $300,000 Hollywood Starlet on closing day (Dec. 20).
Other probable starters include Bicker sons (Joel Rosario), Miss Heather Lee (Garrett Gomez) and Neeko (Alex Solis).
Neeko worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 Sunday for trainer Patty Harrington.
Undefeated champion mare Zenyatta, who finished her career with a perfect 14-for-14 record by beating males with her dramatic late charge in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, will be saluted by Hollywood Park and Betfair/TVG on Sunday, Nov. 29.
Zenyatta, stabled at Hollywood Park throughout her illustrious career, will parade between races on the program which will feature the 68th running of the $300,000 Hollywood Derby and the $100,000 Miesque Stakes.
Patrons attending the celebration of Zenyatta will receive a DVD — ”ZENYATTA, A Living Legend” — which will feature each of her 14 starts, culminating with the sensational victory over a world-class field in the Classic.
A second giveaway item will be a Betfair/TVG poster featuring Zenyatta with her lifetime past performances printed on the back. Both giveaways will be available to patrons while supplies last.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss will be on hand for the event, accompanied by the entire Zenyatta team, headed by trainer John Shirreffs and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
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