Trainer Bobby Frankel's domination of the Matriarch (gr. IT) is bordering on the ridiculous. His Intercontinental and Etoile Montante not only ran first and second in the $500,000 mile turf event Sunday at Hollywood Park, but the winner is a half-sister to last year's winner Heat Haze.
Frankel won his sixth Matriarch in the past nine years. The victory was his fourth in six races in the track's fall Turf Festival this year and 15th in the series, more than twice as many as any other trainer.
This was a sweet one for Frankel. Intercontinental, a 4-year-old filly by Danehill-Hasili (Kahyasi), and Etoile Montante race for his number one client, Juddmonte Farms. Intercontinental joined half-sisters Heat Haze and Banks Hill as grade I winners.
"We wanted to get a Grade I win for this filly, because the whole family is grade I winners," Frankel said.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Intercontinental, who relishes a firm turf, was poised to spring on the leaders after tracking a moderate pace in the stretch. She angled out three wide to challenge the pacesetting Etoile Montante (Edgar Prado) in mid-stretch. She coasted clear to win by a couple of lengths under urging. The time was 1:35 4/5 on firm going.
"(Intercontinental) ran great, she trained really, really well for this race," Frankel noted. "And so did the other filly. It helped Intercontinental because she pulls hard and we made a little pace for her."
Bailey said he had to fight with the tempermental filly a bit in the early part of the race.
"I was able to get a good position on the first turn, which to me is crucial in a mile race," Bailey said. "She did get a little bit rank around the first turn. But by the time I was headed up the backside I was where I wanted to be and the way I wanted to be there. She was back relaxed a little bit. At that point, I thought it was just a question of when I had a chance to let her run. "
Etoile Montante, who flew out of the starting gate to clear the field from her outside post position, clicked off fractions of :24, :47 3/5 and 1:11 2/5.
"I went for the lead because, with the post, I didn't want to be hung too wide out there, and she runs pretty good up close," Prado said. "So I broke running out of there and she was very comfortable all the way around. We just couldn't hold the winner. At least, she was our stablemate."
She held second by a nose over 3-year-old Ticker Tape (Victor Espinoza), who had a clear shot at the winner with a big move coming into the stretch, but failed to match her stride for stride.
"When I got to the outside rounding the turn, I thought I had a pretty good chance to win," Espinoza said. "But the winner opened up about two lengths in front of me. My filly ran big though, and she tries hard. I was really pleased with the way she ran, particularly considering her age. She is still young compared to the other horses."
Island Fashion had a troubled trip but finished fourth with Tyler Baze in the irons.
Favored Musical Chimes failed to fire for Kent Desormeaux and finished sixth.
"I thought she'd be fresh and full of run, but there was just no pace today and that ground was so deep, it was very taxing for her," said a disappointed Desormeaux.
Denebola, a French 2-year-old champion who was a first-time starter in the United States with Gary Stevens, backed out of contention to be eighth after tracking the leader into the stretch along the inside.
Intercontinental was making her first start since running second to Belleski in the Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita in September. The bay ran fifth in Saratoga's 1 1/8-mile Diana (gr. IT) on yielding turf prior to that. Her last win came in Belmont's Just A Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) June 5.
"That track she ran on in Saratoga, it was a bog," Frankel explained.
After beginning her career in Europe, Intercontinental has won four of six in the U.S. this year. She earned $300,000 to bring her career total to $781,263 with eight wins in 15 starts.
The second choice in the field of nine, Intercontinental paid $11.20, $6.20 and $4.80. Etoile Montante returned $12.40 and $9. Ticker Tape's show was $5.40. The all-Frankel exacta was worth $88.20.
Hoh Buzzard, Musical Chimes, Ocean Drive, Denebola and Quero Quero rounded out the order.
Frankel, who became the first trainer to saddle more than two winners in the Turf Festival in one year, started nine horses in five races this year. He won a division of the Miesque (gr. IIIT) with Louvain, the Hollywood Turf Express (gr. IIIT) with Cajun Beat; the Citation (gr. IT) with Leroidesanimaux, and The Matriarch. Frankel-trained horses earnings of $829,000 in the Turf Festival this year.
The Hall of Fame conditioner leads the nation with 42 graded wins in 2004 (12-14-16).