09/14/2005 11:00PM

Matron can be glimpse of Cup

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Following a narrow defeat in her racing debut, India romps to a 12-length victory at Saratoga. That race makes her the likely favorite in Saturday's Matron.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Those wanting to get an early line on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies should pay close attention to Saturday's Grade 1 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park.

Among the seven juvenile fillies entered in the $300,000 Matron are two winners of early-season stakes in New York; the third- and fourth-place finishers from the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in California; and two of the more impressive babies seen during the Saratoga meet.

The Matron, run at seven furlongs for the first time since 1993, tops Belmont's 10-race card, which also includes the Grade 2 Futurity for 2-year-old colts and the Grade 3 Floral Park Handicap for filly and mare sprinters.

are already stakes winners in New York, but India's 12-length maiden win on the second day of the Saratoga meet could make her the favorite in the Matron. India, a daughter of Hennessy, was beaten a neck in her debut at Belmont on June 16, but rebounded with a monster front-running performance at Saratoga, for which she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

"She didn't run badly first time," said Todd Pletcher, the trainer of India. "She was just a little green and was late switching leads. Honestly, I was not surprised by her second race."

Pletcher had initially thought about running back in the Spinaway, but didn't for several reasons. First, Pletcher felt the Spinaway might have been too close back after such a huge race. Second, India had to miss a little bit of training while a sale was pending. Frank and Jane Lyon, who bred India, purchased her from owner John Fort for $2.05 million. Lastly, Pletcher wanted to target a Grade 1 race for India, and the Spinaway is a Grade 2. He won the race with Adieu.

India drew the rail, which might force jockey John Velazquez to use India's speed earlier than he may want.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Matron eight times and sends out the consistent Folklore in the 99th running of this race. Folklore has 2 wins and 3 seconds from 5 starts. She won the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga on opening day and finished second in the Spinaway. In both races she had the rail. Saturday, she will break from post 6 under new rider Edgar Prado.

Peter Hutton, Lukas's Belmont assistant, believes Folklore may have been compromised in the Spinaway by being stuck down on the inside.

"If she's outside, maybe she wins it," Hutton said. "If everybody breaks cleanly and there's no interference and we finish second again, then we were beat by a better filly.''

The two California shippers make the Matron intriguing. River's Prayer won the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park before finishing second in the Landaluce and third behind the talented Wild Fit in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.

Paula Capestro, the trainer and part-owner of River's Prayer, said River's Prayer got sick and missed some training time and a start before the Debutante

"She needed the race," Capestro said. "To run third in the Debutante was no insult considering the way she came up to it. We had been working with her to settle off the pace and relax. We were way back in the Debutante. I'd probably have preferred to been laying third. Also, we were wide all the way around there. None of those things helped us much."

Capestro shipped River's Prayer to Belmont on Sept. 6, and on Sept. 10 River's Prayer drilled four furlongs in 46.87 seconds, the second fastest of 56 works at the distance.

River's Prayer, who gets blinkers for the second time in her career, will break from post 7.

Little Miss Norman won her maiden at Del Mar before finishing fourth the in Del Mar Debutante.

Halo Humor, who won twice at Saratoga, and Along the Sea, third in the Spinaway, complete the field.

The field

Matron Stakes
Purse: $300,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

1IndiaJ. Velazquez7-5
2Along the SeaJ. Castellano10-1
3Halo HumorJ. Bailey9-2
4Fifth AvenueE. Coa12-1
5Miss NormanM. Luzzi12-1
6FolkloreE. Prado7-2
7River's PrayerV. Espinoza4-1

* All starters carry 119 pounds
* Odds by Dan Illman