Favored Cocoa Beach staged a furious rally through the homestretch to nab pacesetter Precious Kitten in the final strides, winning Hollywood Park's $500,000 Matriarch (gr. IT) (VIDEO) on the grass by three-quarters of a length Nov. 30.
Already a grade I winner on dirt, the Chilean-bred Godolphin filly established herself as one of the leading females in the country for next year, when she is expected to campaign again for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. The 4-year-old Cocoa Beach, coming off a second-plece finish to Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 24, was extremely impressive in victory.
The Matriarch was the co-feature, along with the $500,000 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT), on the final day of Hollywood's three-day fall turf festival.
The mutliple grade I winner Precious Kitten, in what is expected to be her final race for owner Lael Stables and trainer Bobby Frankel, staked herself to a lead in a field lacking a true pacesetter, and did it while carving comfortable fractions. She then opened up on the field by a couple of lengths in the stretch as the stalkers Rosinka and Roshani failed to keep pace. But she could not hold off the determined Cocoa Beach, who surged five paths wide under regular rider Ramon Dominguez to win in 1:35.49 for the one-mile test on firm ground.
"My main focus at first was to not lose too much ground," said Dominguez, who has ridden Cocoa Beach in all her American starts. "But then I knew I had so much horse under me that I wasn't even worried about saving ground and just wanted to be able to get out when I wanted to. She seems to be getting better every time I ride her."
Precious Kitten, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, settled for second. Visit, who started a belated bid from the back of the pack on the final turn for Garrett Gomez, came on for third, a half-length behind the runner-up.
Racing in Chile, the United Arab Emirates, and in the United States, Cocoa Beach has now won nine of 12 lifetime starts with two seconds and a third. The daughter of Doneraile Court improved her career earnings to $1,651,141. In four starts in the U.S., she has three wins, including Belmont Park's Beldame (gr. I) over Ginger Punch on a sloppy track Sept. 27.
"I know there was a question mark about her distance (ability) early," bin Suroor said. "I think nine furlongs is the best distance for her. The filly has always had a good turn of foot and plenty of speed. When I saw her coming around the corner, the last furlong and a half, I thought she was going to win."
The trainer said he has no immediate plans for Cocoa Beach.
"We are going to give her a break and she will stay here in the United States," bin Suroor said. "We'll bring her back next year May time and find a race for her."
Cocoa Beach paid $5.80, $3.20, and $2.20, teaming with second-favorite Precious Kitten ($3.20, $2.40) for an $18.80 exacta. With the third choice Visit ($2.60), the $1 trifecta was $22.40.
"She ran her race," Bejarano said of Precious Kitten. "I slowed it down as much as I could on the first turn. When I came to the second turn, I knew I had a lot of horse. I set her down and she fired, but (Cocoa Beach) was just too much."
Like Precious Kitten, Visit is trained by Frankel, who took over conditioning duties from Sir Michael Stoute following the 3-year-old filly's fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).
Haras La Obra bred Cocoa Beach, who is out of Visionera, by Edgy Diplomat.
Magical Fantasy finished fourth, followed by Criminologist, I Can See, Rosinka, and Roshani. Black Mamba scratched.