March 25, 2019

Brown trio among shippers hoping to thwart Vasilika in Matriarch

Uni wins the Noble Damsel Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park under jockey Joel Rosario on September 22, 2018 (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

Trainer Chad Brown’s mentor, the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, compiled a record eight wins in the Matriarch (G1) at its original Hollywood Park home. Since the turf feature relocated to Del Mar, Brown joined the honor roll with Off Limits last year, and he now dispatches a three-strong team in hopes of bringing home another trophy Sunday. Uni and Rymska have drawn the farthest outside in posts 13 and 14, respectively, while Quidura figures to be handy from post 5.

Grade 2 veteran Uni, a perfect three-for-three this season, might already have a Grade 1 laurel if not for an ill-timed setback. After a course record-setting reappearance in the Plenty of Grace at Aqueduct, she shipped to Santa Anita for the Gamely (G1), only to come down with an illness and scratch. Uni wasn’t seen again until Saratoga, where she got up in the De La Rose. Last time out, the More Than Ready filly flaunted her class in a 3 3/4-length romp in the Noble Damsel (G3), and she keeps Joel Rosario aboard.

Quidura, just denied by Lady Eli in the 2017 Diana (G1), is another perhaps overdue for a top-level success. Previously with Graham Motion, the daughter of Dubawi was purchased by Peter Brant for $3.6 million at last fall’s Fasig-Tipton November Sale and transferred to Brown. Quidura scored second out for her new connections in the Ballston Spa (G2), but regressed with a seventh in the First Lady (G1). Jose Ortiz, who masterminded her front-running coup at the Spa, revives the partnership.

Although Rymska hasn’t tried a Grade 1 since her creditable fifth in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), the Le Havre filly has raced only five times in the interim. A photo-finish away from sweeping all five, Rymska has captured three Grade 3s including the Athenia (G3) in her latest with regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr.

Two of the biggest threats to the Brown arsenal come from fellow imports. Sophomore Mission Impassible, a gallant second to Rushing Fall in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) in her first start outside of France, is eligible to appreciate turning back to a flat mile. The Prix de Sandringham (G2) heroine subsequently joined Rodolphe Brisset but jockey Florent Geroux stays in the saddle. Argentinean champion Dona Bruja was back to her best when just missing to A Raving Beauty in the First Lady. That suggests she’s put her subpar runs behind her for Ignacio Correas.

Others exiting the First Lady are the fifth and sixth-placers, Valadorna and Insta Erma. There’s not much between them, for in their prior start, Insta Erma bested Valadorna (who was trying turf for the first time) by a neck in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3). Third in last year’s Matriarch, Insta Erma likely has to up her game in Sunday’s deeper edition. But the presence of hot jockey Drayden Van Dyke helps.

Daddy Is a Legend returns to the scene of her visually impressive victory in last year’s Jimmy Durante (G3). The George Weaver pupil added the Lake George (G3) at Saratoga, but her sophomore campaign is more memorable for a few tough beats – summed up by her crashing through the rail in the Valley View (G3) last out.

Vasilika and jockey Flavien Prat win the John C. Mabee Stakes (G2) on September 1, 2018, at Del Mar © BENOIT PHOTO

The shippers will try to halt the winning streak of local supremo Vasilika, who’s reeled off eight straight for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer. A terrific claim for $40,000 back in February, the four-year-old has progressed into a multiple graded winner with the Rodeo Drive (G1), John C. Mabee (G2), and Goldikova (G2) on her resume. Flavien Prat will try to make it nine in a row aboard the tactically adaptable stalker.

Fahan Mura’s early speed has been dangerous versus lesser, but she’s had to settle for placings to Vasilika in the Mabee and Goldikova. Ms Bad Behavior set a fast pace before holding second in the Autumn Miss (G3), so she could be part of the pace dynamic unless ceding the role to Fahan Mura.

Excellent Sunset was first-past-the-post in the course-and-distance Kathryn Crosby, her debut for rookie trainer Anna Meah, only to be demoted for interference. Mopotism, last in the Gamely in her lone turf start, tries the surface again. The Doug O’Neill filly has been put in some ambitious spots, most recently when fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). O’Neill’s other runner, three-year-old Luminoso, takes a gigantic class hike after finally clearing her entry-level allowance condition.