Updated on 09/16/2011 8:47AM

Golden Apples vs. Banks Hill

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Benoit & Associates
Golden Apples and Garrett Gomez after Santa Ana win in March.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - There is much more at stake than the first-place prize of $300,000 in Sunday's $500,000 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park.

For Golden Apples, a victory in the Grade 1 race would be her third major stakes win of 2002 and would clinch the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding turf female.

For Banks Hill, a win would give her a very slim chance at that title, coming on the heels of her game second in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

For the other five fillies and mares, a win would be a career milestone. Affluent won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup against 3-year-old fillies in 2001, but has never been in a field as deep as the Matriarch. Tates Creek and Magic Mission, the first- and third-place finishers in the Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, face their biggest tests.

The European shippers Choc Ice and Dress to Thrill complete the field, and are seeking their biggest wins of the year. Choc Ice will be the longest shot in the field, with one win in five 2002 starts. Dress to Thrill won four stakes in Europe this season before finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington.

The Matriarch Stakes is one of two major races on Sunday's program, the final day of the $2.1 million Autumn Turf Festival. In the $500,000 Hollywood Derby, Johar heads a field of nine 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles on turf.

The focus in the Matriarch is on Banks Hill and Golden Apples, two 4-year-old fillies who have won a combined nine stakes in 28 starts and $3.4 million.

Golden Apples races for Gary Tanaka, who bought her privately in the summer of 2001. Since that acquisition, Golden Apples has won 5 of 10 starts, all in Grade 1 or Grade 2 stakes. Last fall, she ran a game third in the Matriarch Stakes, losing by 2 3/4 lengths to Starine.

Earlier this year, Golden Apples ran flawless races in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington and Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita. She failed to duplicate that form when fourth in the

BC Filly and Mare Turf over a yielding course at Arlington on Oct. 26. Golden Apples was beaten two lengths by Starine, who has since been retired.

"She had a horrendous trip," trainer Ben Cecil said. "She got rammed early on and she had to come wide. The ground wasn't as she liked, but she tried." Golden Apples won the Yellow Ribbon at the expense of Banks Hill, who was stuck behind fillies and could only manage third.

Banks Hill was better in the Filly and Mare Turf, closing ground late to finish second. The 2001 champion turf female, Banks Hill has not had the same success this year, winning once in six starts, the Group 1 Jacques Le Marois Stakes at Deauville, France, in August. In fairness, she faced males in three major stakes in Europe during the spring and summer and finished second or third in each race.

Now trained by Bobby Frankel, Banks Hill will be coupled with Tates Creek as an entry owned by Juddmonte Farms.

Golden Apples drew the rail, which does not concern Cecil. Golden Apples typically races from a stalking position.

"We can see what everyone wants to do," Cecil said of the draw. "I don't foresee a ton of pace in there. She's pretty versatile. We can go wherever we need to be."

Without a clear front-runner, Affluent could be the beneficiary. Trained by Ron McAnally, she raced near the pace when winning the Grade 1 Ramona Handicap over Golden Apples at Del Mar in July.

"She never gets any respect, and she's beaten Golden Apples twice," McAnally said, referring to the 2001 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

On Sunday, Affluent will earn that respect if she wins in this world-class field.

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