Shippers Discreet Marq and La Tia have their eyes on the grade I prize as the likely favorites in the $300,000 Matriarch Stakes, the featured event on closing day of the Del Mar fall meet Nov. 30.
With Lexie Lou expected to scratch in favor of taking on males in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) a day earlier, Sunday's one-mile Matriarch is likely to field seven fillies and mares on the turf.
Moyglare Stud Farm's New York-bred invader Discreet Marq missed in last year's Matriarch by a nose to Egg Drop in a terrific finish in the race's final renewal at Hollywood Park. The 4-year-old filly by Discreet Cat comes into this year's event in good form off a three-length victory over state-breds in the Ticonderoga Stakes at Belmont Park Oct. 18 for trainer Christophe Clement.
The victory pushed her over the $1 million mark in career earnings while she has recorded a 7-5-3 mark in 19 starts.
Adding to Discreet Marq's status as a major contender here, the multiple graded stakes-winning gray filly won her only prior try on the Del Mar grass when she captured the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) in August 2013. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. makes the trip from New York as well. They will break from post 5.
Under weight-for-age conditions, Discreet Marq and the other older fillies and mares in the field carry 123 pounds, while 3-year-olds get 120.
The speedy La Tia, shipping in from Hawthorne Racecourse, figures to have her way on the front end Sunday. Like Discreet Marq, she also comes into the Matriarch off a victory, winning the 1 1/16-mile Athenia Stakes (gr. IIIT) over a yielding inner turf course at Belmont Park in front-running fashion. La Tia held on by a game neck over former Southern California grade I winner Byrama after opening up by 2 1/2 lengths in the stretch.
The Athenia was was La Tia's third graded stakes win of the year for the 5-year-old daughter of City Place for owner Salvador Hernandez. The dark bay mare, who will be making her first start at Del Mar, is 3-for-3 at the one-mile distance. Overall, she has won 9 of 22 lifetime starts while banking $803,326. Joel Rosario retains the mount and will break La Tia from post 3.
Irish-bred Queen of The Sand, stabled with Paddy Gallagher in Southern California after beginning her career in Ireland, opened the Del Mar fall meet with a 2 1/4-length triumph in the Kathryn Crosby Stakes Nov. 7. She is 2-for-2 over the Del Mar sod and has won four times at the Matriarch distance from six tries.
Mike Smith, who is 3-for-3 aboard Derrick Fisher's 4-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand, gets the return call.
Andrew Stone's Strathnaver is yet to win in six start this year and has lost eight in a row overall, but the British-bred 5-year-old Oasis Dream mare is usually in the hunt for trainer Graham Motion.
Such was the case in her most recent start, the roughly-run Goldikova Stakes (gr. IIT) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Rallying into second in the stretch, she was bumped at the sixteenth pole and finished third, although moved up to second via disqualification. Rafael Bejarano is back aboard for Motion, who won the 2010 Matriarch with Gypsy's Warning.
If Gary Barber's Queen's Plate winner Lexie Lou does run in the Matriarch, she figures to a be a logical contender off two victories in three tries on the turf, most recently taking the Autumn Miss Stakes (gr. IIIT) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
The other 3-year-olds in the field are Gender Agenda, who was second in the Kathryn Crosby to Queen of The Sand, and grade III winner Sheza Smoke Show, most recently fourth in the Autumn Miss.
Kadaya, a 6-year-old Irish-bred making her first start since a fifth-place showing in The Very One Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park in February, completes the field.
Del Mar, Sunday, November 30, 2014, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Queen of The Sand (IRE) Mike E. Smith 123 Patrick Gallagher - 2 2Strathnaver (GB) Rafael Bejarano 123 H. Graham Motion - 3 3La Tia (IL) Joel Rosario 123 Armando De la cerda - 4 4Kadaya (IRE) Kent J. Desormeaux 123 Robert B. Hess, Jr. - 5 5Discreet Marq (NY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 123 Christophe Clement - 98 6Lexie Lou (ON) SCRATCHED 0 UNKNOWN - 6 7Gender Agenda (GB) Joseph Talamo 120 Carla Gaines - 7 8Sheza Smoke Show (KY) Martin Garcia 120 Peter Eurton -
Del Mar, Sunday, November 30, 2014, Race 8