Godolphin and trainer Brad Cox have quite a three-year-old filly sprinter on their hands in Matareya, who scored impressively for the third time this season when taking Friday’s $500,000 Eight Belles S. (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Flavien Prat guided the even-money favorite to the rail from post 8 leaving the backside chute in the seven-furlong test, and gradually advanced into third by the far turn. Up front, Pretty Birdie carved up a strong pace of :22.27 and :44.72 while racing unchallenged.
Matareya was tipped outside of Pretty Birdie turning for home, and the two separated themselves from the rest of the pack down the stretch. Matareya poked her head in front at the eighth pole and then edged away late to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
“It wasn’t the trip I envisioned,” Cox said. “I don’t know how (Prat) got down to the rail. Heads-up ride.”
Matareya returned $4 after completing the course in 1:21.86 over a fast track that began to absorb some moisture due to showery weather.
Pretty Birdie finished second by two lengths over Wicked Halo, who was followed by Marissa’s Lady, Sweet Dani Girl, Gerrymander, Awake At Midnyte, Lac Vieux Desert, and Ain’t Easy.
A 4 1/2-length debut winner at Ellis Park over 6 1/2 furlongs last August, Matareya was next tried in the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades (G1) at Keeneland. She finished in a dead-heat for fifth behind stablemate Juju’s Map, an easy second-level allowance winner earlier on Friday’s card.
Second in the 6 1/2-furlong Fern’s Creek S. at Churchill in late November, Matareya was tried once more around two turns, but finished a distant second behind Kentucky Oaks (G1) candidate Secret Oath in a one-mile allowance at Oaklawn.
Matareya dominated her two immediate races leading up to the Eight Belles, a six-furlong allowance at Fair Grounds by 5 1/4 lengths and the April 10 Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland by 8 1/2 lengths going about seven furlongs.
“It doesn’t appear she wants to go around two turns,” Cox said. “She definitely liked shortening up this winter at Fair Grounds, and parlayed that into a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 win. She’s a good one.”
Matareya’s record now stands at 7-4-2-0, $671,867. Bred in Kentucky by Godolphin, Matareya is by Pioneerof the Nile and out of Grade 3 winner Innovative Idea, by Bernardini. Matareya’s second and third dams were also Grade 3 winners, and this family has produced Grade 1 scorers Maxfield and Sky Mesa.