Bullet Work for Eclipse Hopeful Golden Apples

Continuing her quest for an Eclipse Award, Golden Apples drilled a half mile on the Hollywood Park turf Wednesday in a bullet :46.20 breezing for the $500,000 Matriarch (gr. IT) for fillies and mares on Sunday.

"I wanted her to go about :49, but she does seem very well within herself," said trainer Ben Cecil after Golden Apples completed her work on a very firm course under regular exercise rider David Meah. Patrick Valenzuela has the call in the Matriarch at 1 1/8 miles on grass.

Golden Apples, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly owned by Gary Tanaka, has recorded three victories – two in Grade I stakes and one in a Grade II – and two seconds in six starts this year. She comes off a troubled fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).

Not only does Cecil think a Matriarch victory would make Golden Apples a clear-cut Eclipse champion but that her yearlong record in North America should be enough to prevail, win or lose.

Cecil won the 1998 Matriarch for Tanaka with Squeak on a damp day but would prefer that the course is firm Sunday. "The course was a bog last year (following a rainstorm the previous day) when Golden Apples finished third," said Cecil of the 2001 Matriarch.

He vanned Golden Apples back across town to his base at Santa Anita. She will return to Hollywood Sunday morning.

A small but select field of six is likely to be entered for the Matriarch. Besides Golden Apples, there's the a Juddmonte Farms entry of Banks Hill (Jerry Bailey) and Tates Creek (Edgar Prado), Affluent (Laffit Pincay, Jr.) and European invaders Choc Ice (Kent Desormeaux) and Dress To Thrill (Patrick Smullen).