(from Hollywood Park notes)
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who never won the prestigious Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) as a rider, will try to win the grade I test as a trainer with Diamondrella on Nov. 28 at Hollywood Park.
The grade I stakes-winning 5-year-old mare was an unexpected addition last week to the Santa Anita barn of Stevens, who began training in May.
“I got a surprise call early Thursday (Nov. 12) morning,” said Stevens from Santa Anita Nov. 15. “Michael (Iavarone, head of owner IEAH Stables) informed me that she was coming. It was a big confidence booster.”
Diamondrella was shipped to Kentucky for the Fasig-Tipton Sale in Lexington after finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita Nov. 7, but was bought back by IEAH and flown back to California Nov. 13 by way of Indianapolis.
Diamondrella, based in New York most of the year, enjoyed a banner campaign under previous trainer Angel Penna, winning three of five starts, including two grade I races: the Just A Game at Belmont and the First Lady at Keeneland.
Both victories were at one mile on turf, the same distance as The Matriarch, which is also for fillies and mares. Career-wise, the English-bred daughter of Rock of Gibraltar has won eight of 18 starts and earned $784,576.
“The Matriarch is the target,” said Stevens, who plans to supplement the mare for $6,000. “She showed up in great shape. Angel did a great job with her. I just walked her this morning.”
The Matriarch was one of the few major stakes in Southern California that eluded Stevens as a jockey. He finished second twice behind champion Flawlessly -- with Fire The Groom in 1991 and Toussaud in 1993.
Diamondrella’s toughest competition is expected from another multiple grade I stakes winner, Ventura, to be ridden by Garrett Gomez for trainer Bobby Frankel.