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Matron looks like a monster
ARCADIA, Calif. - In some years, races such as Saturday's $150,000 California Cup Matron are showcases for a standout statebred filly or mare, an opportunity to beat an easy field.
This year, the Matron seems more like a Grade 2 or Grade 3 race. The top contenders are Summer Wind Dancer, the winner of the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap; Yearly Report, the winner of the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks; Dream of Summer, the winner of two graded sprint stakes; and the durable Royally Chosen, who has started in nine consecutive stakes.
The race has such depth it hardly seems fair.
"It should be that way, good racing," said trainer Bob Baffert, who starts Yearly Report.
"You can't have every race be a walkover. I'd prefer a walkover."
The Matron should be one of the highlights of the 10-race California Cup program for statebreds. The top race of the day in terms of prize money is the $250,000 California Cup Classic, featuring the first three finishers of last year's race - Tizbud, Kedington, and Commander's Flag - and the 2002 winner, Calkins Road.
The Matron is run over 1 1/16 miles. The presence of four top-class fillies and mares will scare off some competition.
Summer Wind Dancer would have gone to the Breeders' Cup Distaff if she had run better than fourth in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 3. When she failed as the 6-5 favorite, trainer Jeff Mullins turned to the Matron, hoping a quick pace will develop and help his filly's chances.
"The pace was slower than I thought it would be, and that didn't help her at all," Mullins said of the Lady's Secret. "She probably needed that race."
Royally Chosen was scratched from the Lady's Secret. She had finished third in the Clement Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar after leading for the first seven furlongs. Her presence in the Matron helps Summer Wind Dancer.
"The faster the pace, the better," Mullins said.
Dream of Summer, who won the A Gleam and Rancho Bernardo handicaps, is a front-runner. The Matron will be her first start around two turns.
Yearly Report has not started since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, a loss that ended a four-race winning streak, all in stakes. The Matron will be a tough place to start a new winning streak.
"I just freshened her up," Baffert said. "I'm happy with her."
Connections happy with Singletary
Two noses separated Singletary from a win in Saturday's Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile in his first start in more than four months.
But for Singletary's owner, the Little Red Feather partnership, and trainer, Don Chatlos Jr., the performance was an ideal prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.
Singletary, sent off as the 3-2 favorite, was wide throughout and closed from fifth to finish behind Musical Chimes and Buckland Manor in a blanket finish.
Sunday, Chatlos breathed a sigh of relief when Singletary came out of the race without mishap, he said.
"That's the best I've seen him come out of a race," Chatlos said. "All night, I was worried. I was hoping he wouldn't be laying down all morning. He ate everything."
Singletary will go into the BC Mile on a two-race losing streak. He won the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile in late April and finished a game second to Designed for Luck in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park in late May. After that race, Chatlos and the partnership decided to give Singletary the summer off and point for the Breeders' Cup.
"Do you want to go into the race and worry that he'll blow up, or do you want to go and try to move forward?" said Billy Koch, who is part of the partnership that owns the colt. "Now, we need to get lucky."
The lack of a Grade 1 win is a concern for Chatlos.
"There is no doubt he will have to run his best race," Chatlos said. "The way it looks now, it looks like he'll step forward. If it ends up being a 14-horse field, he doesn't have to be behind there. He can lay up close, two or three lengths off the lead."
Pleasantly Perfect strong in work
Pleasantly Perfect, a top candidate for the Breeders' Cup Classic, worked a mile in 1:38.20 on Monday, giving trainer Richard Mandella a chance to issue a subtle warning to the competition.
"It looks like he went out for a gallop," Mandella said in praise of the workout.
Working in company with stablemate Sanfran, Pleasantly Perfect galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 1:52, Mandella said.
"He couldn't be better," said Mandella.
Pleasantly Perfect will have two more workouts at Santa Anita before being sent to Lone Star Park on Oct. 25, Mandella said.
Baffert camp a happy one
Roman Ruler, the winner of the Norfolk Stakes and a top candidate for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, breezed three furlongs in 35.40 seconds on Sunday, although Baffert timed him in 37.20 seconds.
Regardless of the time, Baffert was content with the workout. He timed Roman Ruler through an opening furlong in 13.20 seconds.
"He's a happy camper, and if he's a happy camper, I'm a happy camper," Baffert said.
Blackdoun works for BC Mile
There will be no fewer than three California-based horses for the BC Mile, including Special Ring and Blackdoun, who are trained by Julio Canani. Special Ring has not started since winning the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in late July.
Blackdoun, the winner of three stakes at Del Mar, including the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6, is bound for the BC Mile. He worked six furlongs on turf in 1:14.20 on Sunday, impressing Canani.
"He flew the last part," Canani said. "I'm very happy with the way he worked."
Canani will not be going to the BC Mile with Tsigane, who finished a troubled fifth in the Oak Tree Mile. Turning for home, Tsigane was fourth, but he was blocked in the stretch and never rebounded.
"He didn't run," Canani said, expressing some anger. "There's nothing we can do about it."
Canani said Tsigane will be pointed for the $400,000 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27.
Tangle sidelined with injury
Tangle, who finished second in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 2, will not start in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare turf, owner Paul Reddam said.
Trained by Craig Dollase, Tangle emerged from that race with a minor injury, which Reddam did not disclose.
"She'll be out for 90 days and then resume training with Craig," Reddam said. "It's unfortunate."
Reddam owns Elloluv, a candidate for the Distaff, and is a partner in Sharp Lisa, the runner-up in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland last Friday, who is a candidate for the Juvenile Fillies.