Action is on the upswing again for trainer Simon Bray, who awaits English import Secret Garden at Hollywood Park for the $125,000 Matiara Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday.
"Her plane got delayed until tonight so she won't arrive until tomorrow morning," said Bray Wednesday. "She won't clear quarantine (48 hours) until Saturday morning."
Secret Garden, trained by John Gosden for owner Robert Sangster, comes off a five-length victory in the listed seven-furlong Miles & Morrison Stakes at Ascot Oct. 12. The Matiara is at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
The Irish-bred daughter of Danehill has won two of five starts in England. She will race in Gosden's name Saturday but will remain with Bray and race in his name thereafter. "She likes firm ground," said Bray.
Bray served notice of a possible comeback on closing day of the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita Sunday when he sent out New Zealand import Master Belt to a $138 upset in the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course. It was Bray's first stakes victory in more than a year.
"I'm two-for-two since I got married," beamed Bray, who recently exchanged vows with wife Danielle, the niece of owner Michael Bello.
In addition to Master Belt, Bray also won a race at Bay Meadows with Constable, a promising 3-year-old. He said that he and Tom Hamilton, the owner of Master Belt, are still discussing whether to supplement Master Belt to the $200,000 Hollywood Turf Express on Nov. 29.
"I didn't run many this summer, but most of my stable got sick, like the Godolphin 2-year-olds," explained Bray. "I have about 32 horses here. I have several clients, including Mr. Bello and Mrs. (Madeleine) Paulson. I just got a nice 2-year-old filly, Mornas Girl, from the Arc sale in France. Team Valor sent me Bella Bella Bella (a stakes-winning filly) about six weeks ago."
Bray won the 1999 Matiara with Astra before developing her into a Grade I stakes winner.
Trainer Bobby Frankel won the last two runnings of the Matiara with High Walden and Heads Will Roll and again appears to hold a powerful hand in the race.
"I might run four of them," the national earnings leader replied when asked about his five nominees: Kithira, Megahertz, Nunatall, Pertuisane and Sea of Showers.
Pertuisane and Sea of Showers are newcomers to California. French import Pertuisane, co-owned by Frankel, finished third in the Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Sept. 8 in her United States debut. Flaxman Holdings Ltd.'s Sea of Showers won one of five starts in France.
Sentimental Value, who won a division of the Harold Ramser Stakes Oct. 14 at Santa Anita for Victor Espinoza and trainer Kristin Mulhall, is also expected to return. Other probable starters include Alozaina (Laffit Pincay, Jr.), Company B (Kent Desormeaux) and Crousille (Mike Smith).