Jockey John Velazquez's hot streak continued on the West Coast Sunday, when he picked up his fifth graded stakes win in succession aboard Starine in the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park.
"I had to come out and ride this filly. She's been very good to me," he said. "She ran a great race. It was a little bit soft, but she handled it perfect. She was very aggressive."
The graded streak for Velazquez began Friday, when he won the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) aboard Cat Cay. It continued at Aqueduct Saturday, when he swept the track's three graded races – the Demoiselle (gr. II) and Remsen (gr. II) Stakes, and the Cigar Mile (gr. I). His last graded stakes loss came Thursday in the Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. II), in which he finished third on Voodoo. His graded stakes winning streak ended later Sunday when 41-1 longshot Strategic Partner finished seventh in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT).
In the Matriarch, Velazquez and Starine tracked pacesetter Crystal Music over a soft turf course, then kicked clear in the stretch to win the 1 1/8-mile event by 2 1/2 lengths, stopping the timer in 1:50.16.
"I had a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "She broke good, was lying second, and she settled beautifully. She made it look really easy. She's run over this type of ground before and she handled the footing perfectly."
Frankel bought Starine earlier this year in France. The Hall of Fame trainer has saddled four Matriarch winners, but never owned one before.
The effects of Saturday's driving rain lingered on a sunny Sunday when several horses were scratched and two of the card's 10 races were taken off the turf course, which was downgraded to soft.
Lethals Lady finished second, a neck ahead of Golden Apples. Crystal Music faded to finish fourth, followed by Freefourracing, Janet, Gino's Spirit, Boismorand, Verruma, Baldwina, and Al Desima.
Spook Express broke down near the wire and was later euthanized.
"It's an up and down day, said Frankel. "I feel terrible for Tom Skiffington (trainer of Spook Express). I know that feeling. I had that in the Breeders' Cup once with Spanish Fern and it's devastating. So it's hard to celebrate when someone is suffering."
After winning the Diana Handicap (gr. IIT) in early September to earn her first graded or group stakes win, Starine then finished third in the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) and 10th in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) for owner/trainer Bobby Frankel. She earned $300,000 for her ninth victory in 29 career starts. Starine (Mendocino--Grisonnante, by Kaldoun) was bred in France by Mme. Catherine Dubois and raced in that country through March of this year, winning six off 22 starts there. Frankel's barn recently required more European imports as planes transporting horses to the Hollywood Park Turf Festival also brought five horses for his stable.
The Matriarch win also marks Frankel's 15th grade I win of the year.
Frankel arrived about noon on a flight from Japan, where he saddled Timboroa to a last-place finish in the $2 million Japan Cup, and Lido Palace to an eighth-place finish in the Japan Cup Dirt.
"It's been two days since I slept," the unshaven Frankel said.
The victory was Frankel's 46th in a stakes this year, including 29 in turf races.
"It feels good," he said.
Starine returned $8.80, $5.20, and $3.40. Lethals Lady paid $13.20 and $6.40. Golden Apples was worth $2.80 to show. The $1 exacta returned $92.40.
(More, South African Champion Spook Express Euthanized