Pacesetting Egg Drop battled back after giving away the lead in the stretch to score a nose victory over Discreet Marq in the final Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) (VIDEO) at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 1, providing a poignant win for trainer Mike Mitchell.
The finish was the closest in the 32 renewals of the Matriarch.
Mitchell, the second all-time leading trainer in Hollywood Park history behind only Bobby Frankel, has been ailing since undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor last year.
Egg Drop races for Billy Koch and Gary Fenton's Little Red Feather Racing and was ridden to victory by Martin Garcia. The winning 4-year-old gray/roan daughter of Alphabet Soup was sent off at 10-1 odds while completing the one-mile distance in 1:34.03 over firm turf.
Three-year-old Discreet Marq, another striking gray, settled for second, with last year's Matriarch winner, Godolphin's Better Lucky, finishing third. Nine contested the $250,000 event for fillies and mares. The race concluded this year's Turf Festival at Hollywood Park, which will close for racing at the end of December and is slated for demolition next year.
Egg Drop has blossomed since Mitchell moved her to the turf this spring with three graded stakes wins in a row, all with Garcia aboard, after finishing second to Schiaparelli in Hollywood's Royal Heroine Mile (gr. IIT) July 6. She returned two months later to take the Yellow Ribbon Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar by a head. The free-running filly was most recently victorious by a head in the one-mile Goldikova Stakes (gr. IIT) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park. Her latest victory was her fifth in nine trips to the post in 2013.
"These are good fillies, grade I, and they're never going to give you an easy one," said Mitchell after his first score in the Matriarch, a race dominated over the years by Frankel with eight wins. "She got headed and came on again—just did it on guts. Putting her on the lawn was the key. She kind of scooted over it really nice."
Vernon Heath's Centaur Farms bred Egg Drop in Florida out of the winning Adhocracy mare Rehocracy. Egg Drop was purchased for the bargain price of $12,000 by Tom McCrocklin, agent, at the 2010 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's August yearling auction from Janie Roper, agent.
Breaking from the rail, Egg Drop went directly to the front, opening up by a couple of lengths on Discreet Marq, with Dayatthespa stalking on their outside in third. Egg Drop negotiated the opening quarter mile in :23.86 and maintained a solid three-length lead through a half in :47.26. Things began to tighten up as they reached the quarter pole in 1:10.52 and Discreet Marq, advancing on the outside for Rafael Bejarano forged a narrow advantage near mid-stretch as Better Lucky rallied down the center of the track.
It looked like the race would come down to Discreet Marq and Better Lucky in the final furlong but a resurgent Egg Drop would not be denied under steady encouragement from Garcia. She regained the lead in deep stretch and got her nose on the line just in time in a tremendous finish.
"(Discreet Marq) went by me very easily at the top of the stretch, but my filly never gave up and came back," Garcia said. "That was a very tough race and she was able to get the job done.''
Discreet Marq, winner of the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I) Aug. 17 in her first trip to Southern California for trainer Christophe Clement, ran superbly for second. Better Lucky, who won last year's Matriarch at record 35-1 odds, settled for third this time at 4-1, half a length back with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Egg Drop carried 123 pounds under weight-for-age conditions and paid $23.20, $11, and $6.20 as the sixth choice. Discreet Marq returned $10 and $5.80, and Better Lucky paid $4.20. The $2 exacta was worth $115, and the $1 trifecta $589.50.
Dayatthespa weakened late but nosed out 19-10 favorite Tiz Flirtatious for fourth. Wishing Gate, Pianist, Stormy Lucy, and My Gi Gi completed the order.
Tiz Flirtatious was a dozen lengths behind while last after half a mile under Joel Rosario and rallied, but came up a length shy.
Egg Drop notched her sixth lifetime win from 12 races while banking $494,020. She is the second graded stakes winner to represent Little Red Feather Racing following Singletary, winner of the 2004 NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).
Koch said he's undecided on the future for Egg Drop.
"I'm going to celebrate this right now. I know her value right now is about as high as it's ever going to be," Koch said. "I'll talk to the partners and I'll talk to (Mitchell) and see how she comes out of this race and then we'll make a decision about (whether to breed her) next year. No decision has been made right now."