Better Lucky gave Godolphin Racing another grade I victory during a banner 2012 season when she registered a 35-1 shocker in an adventurous renewal of the $250,000 Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) (VIDEO) on the turf Nov. 25 at Betfair Hollywood Park.
On the final day of Hollywood's Turf Festival, Dayatthespa—the 8-5 favorite in the field of eight fillies and mares—spooked coming off the clubhouse turn and lost all chance after attempting to hop the fence before getting back into the race. Better Lucky was right behind Dayatthespa but jockey Eddie Castro was able to avoid real trouble.
Better Lucky then settled in about five lengths behind pacesetting Summer Soiree on the backstretch. She would wear down Summer Soiree, who took a commanding lead into the stretch but weakened a furlong out. Better Lucky was comfortably in front heading for the wire as Tiz Flirtatious rallied belatedly to get up for second, one length behind the winner. Summer Soiree was third.
Final time for the one-mile event was 1:34.18.
"She got scared," said Javier Castellano, the rider on Dayatthespa, who was seeking her sixth consecutive win this year for trainer Chad Brown. "She got surrounded by other horses and she tried to jump the fence. That filly—she wasn't the same horse. She lost the race right there."
Better Lucky, a 3-year-old Darley homebred by Ghostzapper out of the grade II-winning Seeking the Gold mare Sahara Gold, is trained by Tom Albertrani. The bay filly is based in New York.
"I had a good break, but I really got scared when (Dayatthespa) had trouble near the fence; after that I had a good trip," Castro said. "My filly gave me a real nice kick and that was good enough to win today."
Getting three pounds from her elders, Better Lucky carried 120 and paid $72.20, $26.20, and $10.60 as the second-longest shot on the board. The California-bred Tiz Flirtatious returned $8 and $5.80 while filling out a $417.20 exacta. Summer Soiree paid $9 to show and was part of a $1 trifecta worth $3,018.80.
Godolphin won the Matriarch for the second time, following Cocoa Beach in 2008.
Summer Soiree, who just missed winning last year's Matriarch after leading to deep stretch, had every chance to take them all the way once again after the mishap with Dayatthespa. It left the Team Valor runner alone on the lead for Gabriel Saez on the backstretch. She posted solid fractions (:23.35, :46.09, :1:09.76) to lead Future Generation and Better Lucky by about three lengths coming into the stretch. But she could not hold on as Better Lucky swept past on the outside to take charge under urging from Castro in the final eighth.
Tiz Flirtatious, rallying from seventh at the quarter pole for Rafael Bejarano, finished up well and was getting to the winner in the late stages. She finished 2 1/4 lengths to the good of Summer Soiree.
"I had a good trip, but it cost me the race when (Dayatthespa) hit the rail and it forced me to come out," Bejarano said. "I was in great position but when she came out I had to hold my horse. I had a good trip after that, she came running; but I think my horse would have won the race if not for that incident."
The Irish-bred Future Generation, a group III winner in her native country, was three-quarters of a length farther back in fourth. She was followed by Dayatthespa, Emulous, Star Billing, and Vamo a Galupiar.
Better Lucky was was facing older rivals for the first time in the Matriarch. She posted a third-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland in her prior start Oct. 13, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Dayatthespa.
"Dayatthespa got an easy trip in Keeneland," said Joshua Flores, assistant to Albertrani. "Unfortunately for her, it was a different story here, with that trouble on the turn. We were in the perfect spot today, right off the lead. It seems she likes to run from right off the pace."
A nose winner in the Sands Point (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park May 28, Better Lucky missed by a neck to Centre Court when second in the Lake George Stakes (gr. IIT) July 25 at Saratoga Race Course. The victory, her fourth in nine career starts, extended her earnings to $438,950.
Better Lucky's dam won the 2000 Stonerside Beaumont (gr. II) at Keeneland. Better Lucky is a half sibling to Canadian grade III winner Sahara Heat, a colt by A.P. Indy that was a $3.4 million buy at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale. Idaho, a full brother to Sahara Heat, sold for $3.1 million at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale but never started.
Jimmy Bell, representing Godolphin, said Better Lucky will almost assuredly run in 2013.
"This is certainly a great way to cap off this year," Bell said. "She'll probably get a little vacation in Florida. There are some good spots to pick, but right now we're just going to enjoy what she's accomplished and how she's kept going.
"She's very game, tries and is dead honest. She had a little bit better pace today, kind of sat in the garden spot and was able to kick on and kick clear. The race shape favored her a little more today than the Queen Elizabeth. I was surprised at her odds. I really felt if they (the public) respected Dayatthespa, you wouldn't necessarily think that we'd be a 30-1 shot. She's really blossomed, which gives us something to look forward to."
Juddmonte Farms was seeking its record seventh Matriarch win with 2-1 shot Emulous. But the British-bred group I winner in Ireland last year had a poor start and was never able to contend for trainer Dermot Weld.
"I was a little disappointed," jockey Patrick Smullen said of Emulous. "She broke slowly, I know that can be a European thing; but is not normal in her, she really quickens out of there and I was never really comfortable through the race. She did not run her race."
The race was also a disappointment for Star Billing, who rallied to win the 2011 Matriarch by half a length but was not a factor this time, finishing seventh in the eight-horse field.