Martin S. Schwartz’s Off Limits got a charmed run through the field in Sunday’s $302,070 Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar, but it wasn’t dumb luck. Her brilliant acceleration, and jockey Joel Rosario’s wise decision-making at every point, proved an unbeatable combination as the Chad Brown shipper extended her winning skein to four.
Unhurried in last early, the 9-2 Off Limits was well behind the pace set by Miss Julia Star through fractions of :23.40, :47.09, and 1:11.12 on the firm course. Hawksmoor, lapped alongside the leader, put her away turning for home and scampered clear in midstretch.
But Off Limits had been scything through them on the far turn, got the split, and blew past Hawksmoor late to score by a length. The Irish import finished the mile in 1:34.37, a stakes record at the Matriarch’s new home of Del Mar. Hawksmoor retained second by a half-length from the flying Insta Erma, who shaded Off Limits’ last furlong according to Trakus (:11.26 for Insta Erma compared to the winner’s :11.28).
Cambodia, the 5-2 favorite, was forced to steady in a spot of trouble on the first turn, and wound up fourth. Lull, likewise disadvantaged going into that clubhouse turn, came next. Off Limits’ stablemate, Rubilinda, had a different kind of issue. Looking a bit too keen when held up, she peeled out very wide turning for home and covered 24 feet more than the winner (per Trakus) in sixth. Rounding out the order were Belvoir Bay; Kitten’s Roar, enduring the widest trip of all (35 feet more than Off Limits) when taking the overland route on both turns; Pretty Girl; Thundering Sky; and Miss Julia Star. Mrs McDougal was scratched.
Off Limits’ first Grade 1 victory enhanced her resume to 17-7-2-1, $634,405. Initially based with David Wachman in Ireland, the daughter of Mastercraftsman mixed it up in useful company. She was fourth to Devonshire in her Curragh unveiling at two and edged Zannda in a Leopardstown maiden (with Aidan O’Brien’s Outstanding back in fifth). Third to the classy Success Days and Postulation when tackling males in her sophomore bow, Off Limits was a distant sixth in the 2015 Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial (G3) but went on to land the Cairn Rouge at Killarney later in the summer.
Schwartz acquired her prior to the Denny Cordell Lavarack & Lanwades Stud Fillies’ S. (G3), where she finished fourth in her Irish finale. Off Limits resurfaced for Brown stateside in 2016, going winless in five tries in second-level allowance company.
But when returning June 1 from a nine-length layoff, Off Limits cleared that allowance condition emphatically at Belmont Park, and she’s a neck away from a perfect season. After missing by that margin to On Leave in the July 1 Perfect Sting, Off Limits has been unbeatable. The chestnut scored in last-to-first fashion at Saratoga, did the same in the September 23 Noble Damsel (G3) for her first graded success, and made it a hat trick last time out in the October 28 Athenia (G3).
Off Limits was the first half of a Brown double on closing day at Del Mar, anchored by well-regarded juvenile Analyze It’s romp in the Cecil B. De Mille (G3). The dynamic duo capped a productive West Coast swing by East Coast raiders over Thanksgiving weekend, with Mo Town taking the Hollywood Derby (G1), Manitoulin the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) and Daddy Is a Legend the Jimmy Durante (G3).
Bred by Carlingford Breeding Syndicate, Off Limits fetched €24,000 as a Goffs November weanling. The five-year-old is out of the Efisio mare Ravish, who descends from the influential Lady Be Good, via the branch responsible for multiple Grade 1 victor Awe Inspiring. At a further remove one finds mile supremos Zilzal, Polish Precedent, and Culture Vulture.
Quotes from Del Mar
Winning rider Joel Rosario: “Perfect trip; just what we wanted. She’s got that great turn of foot. That’s what makes her so special. And she wants to win. When she sees horses in front of her, she wants to go get them. I love it here (at Del Mar). I’ve got lots of good memories from my years here (2008-2011). I won a lot of good races. It’s a place where I feel comfortable.”
Jose Hernandez, trainer Chad Brown’s assistant, on the victorious Off Limits and Rubilinda: “I think it was the right place to be coming from off the pace with this mare. The other filly (Rubilinda), I liked very well, but maybe she didn’t handle the track as well. They’re both very nice horses. I talked to Brown, but he just said, ‘Get over there and win the race,’ that’s it. He talked to the jockey before the race. I’ve saddled many (stakes winners) for Mr. Brown. I won the Arlington Million (G1), twice, and the Beverly D. (G1).”
Jockey Julien Leparoux on runner-up Hawksmoor: “We had a good trip and she ran well. When I asked her, she gave it to me. We just couldn’t match the winner today.”
Corey Nakatani on his third-place trip aboard Insta Erma: “I got her to relax and she was in a nice rhythm. She finished well and ran a big race. She’s a good one.”
Drayden Van Dyke, who rode beaten favorite Cambodia (fourth): “We were in tight on that first turn. They had me surrounded. But she ran well today; gave it a good try.”