With her usual late charge, Juddmonte Farm's Heat Haze gave trainer Bobby Frankel his 25th grade I victory in a scorching finish of the $500,000 Matriarch (gr. IT) for fillies and mares at Hollywood Park Sunday.
Heat Haze's last-gasp drive – she was at the rear of the 14-horse field when reaching the stretch – was successful by a neck over Musical Chimes, who nipped Dedication by a nose for second. The final time for the Matriarch, contested at a mile for the first time in 23 runnings, was 1:34 2/5. Frankel won his fifth Matriarch.
Away slowly for jockey John Velazquez while breaking from the 11th post, Heat Haze, carrying 123 pounds, angled to the rail and saved ground until moving into contention in the crowded stretch run. Lacking room at the quarter pole, she found some by following the path of Musical Chimes, who stormed to the front for Edgar Prado while four wide in deep stretch. Flying between horses, Heat Haze caught Musical Chimes and a stubborn Dedication in the final strides. Island Fashion was fourth, beaten by only a half-length.
``We had a perfect trip,'' Velazquez said. ``We had to come from last, but I just wanted to wait and bide my time to find room. At the quarter pole, I got in a little tight and I didn't know which way to go.
``I saw another horse that was moving well (Musical Chimes), so I followed that one and it worked out perfectly. Once she got through, she really punched out hard.''
The 4-year-old filly was cutting back in distance from the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita, where she was fourth, her only out-of-the-money showing in eight U.S. starts. The winner of the Beverly D (gr. IT) earlier this summer, Heat Haze had won three of seven previous tries at the mile distance, however, and always finishes with interest, regardless of distance.
Frankel, who set the world record for most grade or group I wins in one year a week ago, said he was concerned going in.
"I was a little concerned coming out of those long races going a mile," he said. "I'm just happy she didn't hang on me."
He said Velazquez provided another perfect ride.
"He's won with at leat 50 percent of the horses he has ridden for me in the past year ... two years," Frankel said.
Prado said Musical Chimes thought she had won after getting to the front in deep stretch.
"She kind of pulled herself up when she got to the lead," he said. "She started trying again when she saw the other horse ... past the finish line."
Heat Haze has earnings of more than $1.1 million this year with her winning share of $300,000 Sunday. She has won four of seven this year.
An English-bred half-sister to Eclipse-winning Bank's Hill, Heat Haze is by Green Desert from Hasili (by Kahyasi). She improved her career line to 7-2-2 in 14 starts and $1,183,696 in total purse money. She began her racing career in France.
Chopinina set a solid pace of :23 2/5, :46 4/5 and 1:10 2/5, opening up by 1 1/2 lengths on Belleski and Maiden Tower on the backstretch before giving way on the final turn.
Heat Haze's uncoupled stablemate, Etoile Montante, who was ridden by Jerry Bailey, went off as the 2-1 favorite. After stalking the pace and moving up to second in upper stretch, she lugged in and was forced to take up at the eighth pole, finishing 11th.
``Turning for home, I had a spot to get out, but instead of going forward, she ducked back in over the leader's heels,'' said Bailey. ``Up until that point, I thought she had an excellent chance to win.''
One spot behind the favorite was defending Matriarch winner Dress To Thrill, who faded after bidding four wide on the turn for home.
Frankel's earlier Matriarch wins came with Starine in 2001, Happyanunoit in 1999, Ryafan in 1997, and Wandesta in 1996. Charlie Whittingham saddled the Matriarch winner seven times.
The 4-1 second choice of the public, Heat Haze paid $10.60, $6 and $3.80. Musical Chimes returned $6.40 and $4.40. The show on Dedication, who was ridden by Corey Nakatani, was $10.20. The $2 exacta was worth $58.80 and the trifecta returned $1,293.
Acago followed Island Fashion in fifth, with Magic Mission, Garden in the Rain, Mer de Corail, Chopinina, Dancal, Etoile Montante, Dress To Thrill, Maiden Tower and Belleski trailing.