11/28/2002 1:00AM

Eclipse within her grasp


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Ben Cecil admits that if Golden Apples had won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Arlington Park last month she would not be starting in Sunday's $500,000 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

"It would have been doubtful," Cecil said.

Consider Golden Apples's loss to be a gain for the Matriarch Stakes.

Before the creation of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 1999, the Matriarch Stakes was widely considered a key race for the Eclipse Award honoring the nation's outstanding turf female. In the 10 runnings of the Matriarch Stakes from 1989-98, four winners were named outstanding turf female.

This year, the race once again weighs heavily in deciding the divisional title.

Golden Apples has won the Beverly D. and Yellow Ribbon stakes in the second half of the year, and would certainly clinch the championship with a win in the Matriarch.

She may already be there. Her competition for that prize include Starine, who won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf but has been retired, and Banks Hill, who won the 2001 championship but has not won a stakes in the United States this year.

Cecil is already campaigning on behalf of Golden Apples, who is owned by Gary Tanaka.

"Who else are they going to give it to," Cecil said. "If she wins the Matriarch, there haven't been many fillies that won the Matriarch, Beverly D., and Yellow Ribbon."

In fact, there have not been any. The Beverly D. has not been run every year since it was inaugurated in 1989, and the Matriarch occasionally draws fillies and mares imported from Europe.

This year, there are seven entries for the Matriarch. Golden Apples drew the rail, and will face Tates Creek, Banks Hill, Affluent, Magic Mission, Choc Ice, and Dress to Thrill. Choc Ice and Dress to Thrill are European imports.

Cecil insists that Golden Apple's fourth-place finish in the Filly and Mare Turf was not too taxing of a race.

"I don't think she had a hard race," Cecil said. "It's been five weeks and she thrives on racing."

Pick six comprises tough races

The $500,000 Matriarch Stakes is not part of Sunday's pick six, which has a guaranteed pool of $1 million. The pick six covers the fifth through 10th races; the Matriarch Stakes is the fourth.

The pick six starts with a six-furlong maiden race for 2-year-olds, featuring several first-time starters. The sixth race is run over 1 1/16 miles on turf for $35,000 to $40,000 claimers and has drawn 10 starters.

The seventh race is a starter allowance over seven furlongs and is followed by the $500,000 Hollywood Derby over 1 1/8 miles on turf. From the rail, the derby field is Mananan McLir, Royal Gem, Music's Storm, Century City, Johar, Inesperado, Union Place, Surprized, and Rock Opera.

The final two races are a starter allowance for 2-year-olds over six furlongs and a maiden race on turf over 1 1/16 miles.

Cal Breeders next for Unfurl the Flag

Unfurl the Flag earned a trip to the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 with a game victory in an allowance race on Wednesday.

Unfurl the Flag rallied from off the pace to challenge pacesetter Slew's Prince on the turn. Through the stretch, Unfurl the Flag held off Martinblestme before pulling away to win by 3 1/2 lengths, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.21.

Trained by David Bernstein, Unfurl the Flag has not been out of the top three since he was claimed for $40,000 at Del Mar on Aug. 2. He was second in the Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 4.

The California Breeders Champion Stakes is run over seven furlongs for statebreds.

First local win for French jockey

Tony Farina, a 23-year-old French jockey, had a memorable first winner at Hollywood Park on Wednesday.

Farina rode the first-time starter Underpinning, who was 20-1 on the morning line but opened at 5-2 before going off at 7-1. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Underpinning showed workouts on the Saratoga turf training track in early October and more recently at Santa Anita.

Close to the pace throughout, Underpinning moved closer on the turn and pulled clear to win the 1 1/16-mile race by eight lengths in the modest time of 1:46.73.

The winner was the first win for Biancone since he returned to Southern California earlier this month after being based in New York since April.

* Kona Gold, the champion sprinter of 2000 who was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last month, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Santa Anita on Thursday. He is being prepared for a 2003 campaign in which he will be a 9-year-old.