Salvador Hernandez's La Tia displayed her affinity for her home track once again May 24 in the $150,000 Arlington Matron (gr. III), romping wire-to-wire under E.T. Baird in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack event at Arlington Park (VIDEO).
The two-time Illinois-bred champion wheeled back in two weeks off her season debut, a runner-up finish in a May 9 allowance event going 1 1/16 miles at the Chicagoland oval. She appeared full of good energy in her rapid return for trainer Armando De La Cerda as she cleared her closest contender by 6 1/4 lengths. It was her seventh career victory, six of which have come at Arlington.
Sent to the lead by Baird from post 3 as the 8-5 favorite in a field of eight older fillies and mares, the 5-year-old daughter of City Place kept about a length advantage over Awesome Flower while getting early fractions of :24.14 and :48.07 with 3-1 third choice Frivolous skimming the rail in third.
"(There was) a little bit (of early pressure), but nothing that she wasn't unable to handle," Baird said of his mount's front-running position. "I had her well in hand. Armando told me she was a kind filly and that she would pretty much do what I wanted her to do. He was exactly right. This was the first time I was ever on her. It was a pretty good feeling."
La Tia led the group into the far turn, completing three-quarters in 1:12.17, and kicked clear through a 1:36.67 mile, finishing under firm handling in 1:49.66. Frivolous worked hard for the place by a neck over Awesome Flower. Ambusher was a head back in fourth, followed by Moment in Dixie, I Dazzle, Heart of Destiny, and Naples Gold.
Naples Gold caused a minor delay before the start for a shoe repair, and the riders briefly dismounted behind the gate while she returned to the paddock for the adjustment.
"The delay concerned me because she just ran two weeks ago and is a bit hyper," De La Cerda said of the winner. "I thought she might lose her energy, but she was okay. Last time out she ran very fast, so I was a little worried. She ran a mile and a sixteenth last time to get her ready to run a mile and an eighth (today). She came out of that race good and happy, so I said 'Let's run her.' "
La Tia returned $5.20, $3.40, an $3. Frivolous paid $4.20 and $3, with Awesome Flower bringing $3.60.
The Arlington Matron was the second graded victory for La Tia, who took the 2012 Arlington Oaks (gr. III). In 2013 the dark bay mare won two of her six races—all on grass—including the Lincoln Heritage Handicap en route to being crowned both champion older handicap female and female turf horse in Illinois.
Bred by Hernandez out of the Sky Classic mare La Adelita, La Tia improved her career record to 7-1-3 from 17 starts for earnings of $528,382 for her owner's Hernandez Racing Club.