Barry and Judith Becker's homebred Chocolate Coated will make her 4-year-old season debut in the Jan. 15 Megahertz Stakes (G3T) on the Santa Anita Park turf, taking on an evenly matched field of older fillies and mares that includes Matriarch Stakes (G1T) third-place finisher Insta Erma.
Chocolate Coated has not raced since her runner-up finish in the Oct. 29 Autumn Miss Stakes (G3T), when she finished 3 1/4 lengths behind Lull going the Megahertz distance of one mile on firm turf.
Trained by Neil French, the daughter of Candy Ride broke her maiden going one mile on the dirt at Del Mar in her third start and then returned to place fourth in the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) at the same distance and surface. She then took a Santa Anita allowance race by 2 3/4 lengths one start before her Autumn Miss effort.
While Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens had been aboard in all her previous starts, Chocolate Coated will get the services of another Hall of Fame rider in Mike Smith on Martin Luther King Day.
The Megahertz may be a step down in class for Insta Erma, but the Matriarch was only the second of two graded efforts in the 5-year-old Pioneerof the Nile mare's 15-race career.
Trained by Richard Baltas for Little Red Feather Racing, Medallion Racing, Premier Racing Club, and Jerry McClanahan, Insta Erma took a jump in class last year when she was acquired by the partners.
"She's doing awesome," Baltas said. "It's my race to lose, let's put it that way."
Insta Erma finished second in the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes June 18 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, before moving to the barn of Baltas, where she finished fourth in the Sept. 9 John C. Mabee Stakes (G2T) going 1 1/8 miles on Del Mar's turf course.
Backed down to the one-mile Swingtime Stakes at Santa Anita, Insta Erma got a nose over Megahertz contender Madame Stripes to score her first stakes victory on firm turf one start before the Matriarch.
Madame Stripes, who is one of four carrying the highweight of 122 pounds, finished third behind Majestic Heat and Champagne Room in her latest effort—the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa Stakes (G2) on the dirt at Los Alamitos Race Course Dec. 3.
Others carrying the weight, giving two pounds to the rest of the field, are Insta Erma, Goldikova Stakes (G2T) runner-up Thundering Sky, and Irish-bred Lady Valeur, who's most recent finish was a third in the Miss America Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.
Gary Sherlock-trained Do the Dance was pulled up and walked off the track in her last start, the Red Carpet Handicap (G3T), but the 5-year-old Discreet Cat mare has been posting consistent workouts since.