11/30/2008 12:00AM

Precious Kitten looks for big finish


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Precious Kitten's outstanding career is winding down Sunday at Hollywood Park, at the same time lightly raced Visit's career is gearing up.

And whether the Grade 1 Matriarch is won by the established front-running veteran or by a stretch-running future star, trainer Bobby Frankel is well-positioned to win the mile turf race for fillies and mares for a fifth straight year.

"The way the race shapes up, Precious Kitten looks like my best chance, but you never know," Frankel said.

What is known, however, is that none of the nine fillies and mares in the $500,000 Matriarch is a true front-runner. "It looks like Precious Kitten will be in front," Frankel admits, and it might not be a good thing.

Throughout an 8-for-24 career that includes three Grade 1 wins and earnings above $1.8 million, Precious Kitten has always run best chasing a target. Sunday, she is the target. And if she loses focus, or has lost a step at age 5, then the Matriarch is wide open.

The Matriarch (race 7) is one of two Grade 1 races at Hollywood Sunday. The $500,000 Hollywood Derby is race 9; Gio Ponti and Cowboy Cal are among the principals in the 1 1/4-mile turf race for 3-year-olds. The pick six on races 5-10 includes a $500,000-guaranteed pool.

In addition to Precious Kitten, two other Matriarch starters soon will retire - Roshani and Criminologist. Roshani won the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap in October, then was sold at auction and returned to trainer Todd Pletcher.

"We felt she had some quality races left," Pletcher said. "She'll run in the Matriarch and San Gorgonio, then go off to stud."

The San Gorgonio is set for Jan. 4 at Santa Anita. Roshani has won 7 of 13 starts.

Cocoa Beach will continue to race next year at age 5, and her runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic suggests she will be among the top fillies and mares of 2009. Saeed bin Suroor trains the 8-for-11 filly, who is making her first start on grass since her career debut in January 2007.

A sharp half-mile work on the Hollywood turf course hints that surface is not an issue. "She breezed so well on it here," said Rick Mettee, assistant to bin Suroor. Cocoa Beach drew post 9 of 9 under Ramon Dominguez.

The field also includes Grade 1 winners Black Mamba and Magical Fantasy, Grade 3 winner Rosinka, and Grade 1-placed I Can See.

Although Frankel said Precious Kitten could run once more, in the San Gorgonio, a win Sunday probably would be enough. Five of the seven retired Matriarch winners trained by Frankel won Grade 1's their final race. Starine and Intercontinental won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf; Heat Haze, Wandesta, and Ryafan won the Matriarch.

Rafael Bejarano rides Precious Kitten, who finished fourth against males in the Breeders' Cup Mile last time out. She drops in class to face her own gender Sunday, while the other starter trained by Frankel drops in distance.

Visit had not raced beyond a mile when she made her U.S. debut in the 1 1/4-mile BC Filly and Mare Turf. She made the lead at the eighth pole, and weakened to fourth by 1 1/2 lengths.

"The shorter distance will help," Frankel said, adding that Visit acclimated quickly. "She acts a lot like Ventura; they both came around very fast over here."

Garrett Gomez rides Visit, who remains in training next year at age 4. Barring a front-running win by Precious Kitten, Visit can win from behind. She has won 2 of 8.

A live longshot is Rosinka, who is likely to be positioned second behind Precious Kitten, and would be first to challenge for the lead if the pacesetter tires. Rosinka has won 7 of 17 for trainer Graham Motion; she finished second to Roshani last out.

Black Mamba won the Grade 1 John C. Mabee in summer over a weak field, and may want farther than a mile; Magical Fantasy had a brutal trip finishing sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland. The Matriarch is the first start against older for Magical Fantasy.