11/24/2006 12:00AM

Clinet draws well in Matriarch

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After Clinet was injured earlier this year, trainer John Hills first was unsure if she would even survive. Then he hoped she would be well enough to go to the breeding shed. But she made it all the way back to the races, and could cap her dramatic saga with a victory on Sunday in the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

The one-mile Matriarch, for fillies and mares, is the third and final Grade 1 race that will be run on turf this weekend at Hollywood Park, and it is by far the most inscrutable. A full field of 14 will go, and there is no standout. Combine the large, evenly matched field with a short run to the first turn, and trips will be paramount.

The draw was kind to Clinet, who landed post 6. She has a strong look at the race based on last month's Las Palmas Handicap, in which she fell just a head shy of catching Matriarch rival Beautyandthebeast. That was Clinet's first race in the United States, and her first start in nearly eight months. Hills believes she can move forward off that race.

"She ran a super race," Hills said Friday morning. "And now that she has settled in here, she should continue to do well."

Clinet, named for a fine wine from France's Bordeaux region, raced last year in Great Britain and spent this past winter in Dubai. She made her final start there on March 2. After returning to Great Britain, she was being prepared for the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting, but she was injured in an accident on a mechanized walking machine.

"She locked a hind leg, panicked, and hurt the top third of her cannon bone," Hills said. "She spent 12 weeks of the summer in her box, not even going out. At first we did not know if we could save her. Then we thought maybe we could save her for the paddocks. Then we started training her gingerly."

Beautyandthebeast, the Las Palmas winner, is seeking her third straight victory. She is just inside Clinet, in post 5.

"She's always been pretty damn game," said Beautyandthebeast's trainer, Neil Drysdale. "She gets up there, and it looks like there's a little more left. She tries very hard. She's very consistent."

Mea Domina, who won the Palomar Handicap at Del Mar this summer, returns to Southern California after fading to finish fifth in the First Lady at Keeneland, which was won by Gorella.

"It's a sandy-based course, and I just don't think she liked it," said Mea Domina's trainer, Ron McAnally. "She was doing good going into the race, and the fractions were not like at Del Mar, where she went fast and still hung on. All her works since the race have been good. She hasn't missed a beat."

Mea Domina does her best on or near the lead, but the front end should be occupied by Cambiocorsa, who scratched from Friday's Cat's Cradle Handicap to run in the Matriarch, or the speedy River's Prayer, who upset Cambiocorsa in the California Cup Distaff Handicap. Both Cambiocorsa, who drew post 11, and River's Prayer, who is in post 12, have outside draws that likely will force them to go early or risk getting caught wide.

Pommes Frites, who will start just inside Cambiocorsa, also prefers to race near the lead, though she usually makes the top in races with moderate pace. She has won 5 of 7 this year, and comes off a win in Belmont's Athenia Handicap.

Price Tag, who will race coupled with Mirabilis, is an intriguing newcomer. She ran with the best in Europe this year, but was star-crossed in Group 1 company. She was disqualified from victory in the French 1000 Guineas and had a rough trip in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. She scored her lone win of the year in a Group 3 race at Longchamp.

Three Degrees is another runner due for some better luck. She just missed against Mea Domina in the Palomar, then found trouble chasing Wait a While in the Yellow Ribbon. Her stretch kick might be more effective at one mile than the Yellow Ribbon's 1 1/4 miles.