Bidding for an Eclipse Award as champion filly or mare on turf, Golden Apples worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:11 around the dogs on a firm turf course Thursday at Hollywood Park in preparation for the $500,000 Matriarch (gr. IT) Dec. 1.
"She looked good," said trainer Ben Cecil at the conclusion of the drill. "She galloped out in 1:24 3/5." Exercise rider Dave Mea worked the 4-year-old filly.
Cecil, who is stabled at Santa Anita, said he would probably bring owner Gary A. Tanaka's filly back across town again Wednesday for a final half-mile grass drill before the 1 1/8-mile Matriarch for fillies and mares.
Cecil thought that Golden Apples deserved the Eclipse, win or lose, but would obviously prefer a victory to remove any doubt and cap a banner year.
"I don't see who else could get it," said Cecil. He noted that if 2001 Eclipse Award winner Banks Hill won the Matriarch, it would be her first victory in the United States this year, and that retired Breeders' Cup Fillies and Mares winner Starine won only that one race.
Golden Apples, in contrast, offers a portfolio of extended excellence throughout the year. She has recorded three victories – two in Grade I stakes and one in a Grade II – and two seconds in six starts.
"She got hammered at the start of the Breeders' Cup, was eight wide, running on yielding turf – not her favorite surface – and still only lost by two lengths," said Cecil of a troubled fourth-place finish in her last start. "One thing about her, she gives everything every time she runs."
Golden Apples, third in the Matriarch last year, will be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela.
Other probable starters include a Juddmonte Farms entry of Banks Hill and Tates Creek, European invaders Dress To Thrill and Choc Ice, and a Ron McAnally-trained duo of Affluent and Tout Charmant.