12/01/2003 12:00AM

Another rider, another stakes

Benoit & Associates
John Velazquez, in a spot previously occupied by Jerry Bailey, is aboard Heat Haze after the filly's victory in the Matriarch Stakes.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jerry Bailey owes his remarkable 2003 season in large part to the success of the horses trained by Bobby Frankel. In very large part. Bailey has won 70 stakes, a record, with 25 of them coming aboard Frankel runners. For those without a calculator handy, that is a robust 35.7 percent.

By the same token, Bobby Frankel owes Jerry Bailey a debt of gratitude for the jockey's contribution to the trainer's incredible 2003 season. Going into last weekend's racing, Frankel horses had won 50 stakes, 25 of them ridden by Jerry Bailey. You don't need a calculator to know that comes out to an amazing 50 percent.

Frankel and Bailey, Bailey and Frankel - it has become the mantra of the game. Not since the days of Bill Shoemaker and Charlie Whittingham, or Eddie Arcaro and the Jones boys of Calumet Farm, has a collaboration of riding and training skills been taken to such great heights.

So cut them some slack. Nobody gets it right all the time. For once - maybe the only time this year - Bailey zigged away from a Frankel runner and had to watch John Velazquez zag right into the Hollywood Park winner's circle aboard the redoubtable Heat Haze in the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes on Sunday afternoon. The same Heat Haze who was ridden in her most recent race by one Jerry Bailey.

"She's hot," said Frankel to assistant Ruben Loza as he touched Heat Haze lightly on the flank, then straightened a twist in her rein. "Why's she getting hot? You school her yesterday?"

Hot, right, like anyone else would notice. Circling in the paddock with the other Matriarch runners on a mild late November day - it was more art gallery than walking ring - Heat Haze looked the part of a sleek trained seal ready to please.

Frankel was just back from New York, where he had finished second with Midas Eyes in the Cigar Mile on the day before the Matriarch. It had been a few days since he had seen the filly. Loza assured the boss Heat Haze had schooled, so Frankel wrote it off to a temporary change in grooms. Fillies care about such things.

As for Frankel, he was still running a little warm over the change in the Matriarch distance from nine furlongs to one mile. Small wonder. Frankel won the race four times between 1996 and 2001 at its previous distance, most recently with his own mare Starine, who was ridden by John Velazquez. Furthermore, Frankel fillies and mares had dominated California's nine- and 10-furlong turf scene in 2003. Frankel won the Ramona and Santa Barbara with Megahertz and the Yellow Ribbon, the Gamely and the San Gorgonio with Tates Creek. Heat Haze contributed the 9 1/2-furlong Beverly D. in Chicago.

"I don't know why they have to mess around with a good race," Frankel said. "What was wrong with it?"

Not a thing, but at least the Matriarch's maiden voyage at a mile made for an entertaining minute and a half. Run it three or four more times and the results would scramble, especially since the margins separating the first five at the end of the 14-horse charge were nose, neck, half, and half. The vote for a do-over was 13-1.

Velazquez, in fact, conceded he had to be extremely lucky to find room at the right time for Heat Haze to make her final charge. They were last to the stretch turn, facing nothing but tails, until Velazquez caught sight of Musical Chimes and his New York colleague, Edgar Prado.

"She was moving well," Velazquez said. "So I followed them."

Good move, especially since things were getting ugly elsewhere. Bailey's chosen one, the French filly Etoile Montante, went from dead aim on the lead to lugging badly left over the heels of pacesetter Chopinina. The ensuing squeeze caught Maiden Tower, Garden in the Rain, and, to a lesser extent, Dedication and Acago.

Musical Chimes, meanwhile, was in full flight, running back to her French classic form. Up in the stands, Neil Drysdale suddenly was entertaining visions of a rescued weekend. The trainer had returned earlier in the day from a washout in Japan, where he had saddled Sarafan under typhoon conditions in a forgettable Japan Cup.

"The filly ran so well," Drysdale said afterward. "She's still a bit green, I think. When she got to the lead, she was sort of startled, as if she was not sure of what to do next."

The hesitation enabled Heat Haze to catch Musical Chimes right on the line, with Dedication on the inside in third. Fourth money went to Island Fashion, winner of this year's Alabama Stakes, who was making her first start on the grass and her debut for her new California trainer, Marcelo Polanco. She was 87-1.

"This race was a mile and one-eighth last year, wasn't it?" Polanco wondered aloud, after missing a life-changing moment by barely half a length.

"Oh well," he sighed. "At least we got beat by Frankel. We got beat by the giant."