Juddmonte Farms' Price Tag, making her U.S. debut for trainer Bobby Frankel, exploited an opening in the stretch under Edgar Prado to overcome Pommes Frites nearing the wire and win the $500,000 Matriarch (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park Sunday.
Price Tag, disqualified from a group I win in France this spring, hit the wire a half-length in front of hard luck Three Degrees, who closed frantically after taking the overland route for Alex Solis in the one-mile event for fillies and mares. Frankel won his third consecutive Matriarch – the race was not contested in 2005 – and his seventh of the last 10 runnings, tying Charles Whittingham for the most Matriarch victories.
"It feels good," Frankel said. "It actually feels better every year.
"I got (Price Tag) about six weeks ago. They didn't tell me anything about her. They just send them in and say 'do what you want'. That's why they do so well. No instructions come with the horse."
Pommes Frites, who took the lead under Jose Santos at the quarter pole and appeared to be the winner until the final 50 yards, finished third, holding off Mea Domina by a head.
River's Prayer, a 50-1 outsider, took the field along through fractions of :23 2/5 and :46 2/5 before giving way to the multiple graded stakes winner Pommes Frites, who completed six furlongs in 1:10 3/5.
Price Tag, who won a group III in France in September when trained by Pascal Bary, was at the rear of the pack of the 14-horse field on the far turn but made up ground quickly while threading her way toward the front while staying inside. She found room on the inside of Clinet mid-stretch and finished strongly for her first win in six tries at the one-mile distance. The final time, 1:34 3/5, was one tick off the track record set by Juddmonte's Heat Haze in 2003.
"We thought the race was going to set up good for her because there was a lot of speed in the race, and I just wanted to stay inside and pick them off," said Prado, who picked up his first Hollywood Park victory. "I thought they would come back to us, and I was just looking for a place to go. I was pretty comfortable every step of the way. She really kicked it in strong."
Sent off as part of the favored Juddmonte entry with Mirabilis at 2-1, Price Tag paid $6.40, $4, and $2.80.
Three Degrees, who continues to come close in Southern California's top distaff turf events but hasn't won since taking the Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood in June 2005, returned $4.20 and $2.80.
"I keep telling them we're going to win a big one with her," Solis said. "What are you going to do, you have 14 horses and there's nowhere you can get through on the inside. I was following the winner the whole way. The winner got to save maybe a half a length and that was the difference."
Pommes Frites, coming off a win in Belmont's Athenia Handicap (gr. IIIT) Oct. 15, was $3.80 to show.
"I was trying to steal the race from the quarter pole home," Santos said. "I knew they were going to come home strong, especially Bobby Frankel's horse. My filly fought all the way to the end. I don't feel she ever gave up."
Mea Domina finished fourth, followed by Society Hostess, Ready to Please, Beautyandthebeast, Memorette, Attima, Danzon, Clinet, Mirabilis, Cambiocorsa, and River's Prayer.
A 3-year-old daughter of Dansili out of the Affirmed mare Tarocchi, the bay Price Tag earned $300,000 with her third win in 10 lifetime starts and has banked $457,177.