11/26/2011 3:09PM

Hollywood Park: Shirreffs primed for big '12 with turf females

Benoit Photo
Star Billing (right) surges to the lead in deep stretch of Friday's Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – His victory with Star Billing in the Matriarch Stakes on Friday in the rear-view mirror, trainer John Shirreffs on Saturday morning was looking forward to 2012, when he could have a stranglehold on the local grass races for female turf runners.

In addition to Star Billing, Shirreffs also trains Nereid and Harmonious. All three will remain in training next year and can take advantage not only of a strong grass program at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar, but also focus on the Breeders’ Cup, which returns to Santa Anita next fall.

“There are a lot of nice races in California for turf fillies,” Shirreffs said Saturday morning.

It has been obvious from the way Shirreffs has managed Star Billing that he has held her in the highest regard. After she won first time out in March, Star Billing was immediately pitched into graded stakes. She won the Grade 3 Senorita in only her second start, was second in the Grade 2 Honeymoon, then just did miss when she was third in the Grade 1 American Oaks and second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

After failing to handle the grass at Keeneland in the Queen Elizabeth II on Oct. 15, Shirreffs went to the well one last time in 2011, and was rewarded with a Grade 1 win.

“She deserved it,” Shirreffs said. “She’s had a very ambitious campaign since the spring. Her record really doesn’t show how good she is. She was blocked several times and came flying at the end. She’s one of those fillies who’s focused. She’s tough as nails.”

Both Shirreffs and George Krikorian, who bred and owns Star Billing, said she would now get a vacation.

Nereid, who won the American Oaks, began her end-of-the-year vacation a month ago following a third-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth. She is currently in Kentucky, but Shirreffs said she would be back in California in early December.

Harmonious was given time off following the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, in which she finished ninth of 11.

The Matriarch was the third win of the day for Shirreffs.

“That was better than Ferris Bueller’s day,” he said.

Native Diver nominees tune Up

Tres Borrachos and Racing Aptitude, both nominated to the Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver Handicap for older horses next Saturday, both worked five furlongs Saturday morning.

Here at Hollywood Park, Tres Borrachos was timed in 1:02.60 for trainer Marty Jones. Tres Borrachos most recently finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs behind Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford.

Racing Aptitude worked across town at Santa Anita, where he was timed in 1:00.20 for trainer Bob Baffert. Racing Aptitude won the restricted Yo Eleven Stakes – run on 11/11/11 - going 7 1/2 furlongs in his last start.

The Native Diver is at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.