11/27/2006 12:00AM

Price Tag able substitute

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Bobby Frankel has such great luck in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes that the Hall of Fame trainer can lose his best prospect and still win it.

Frankel had the Matriarch circled on the calendar for Karen's Caper, but she went to the sidelines with an ankle chip last month following a narrow loss to Gorella in the First Lady at Keeneland. No matter. Frankel reloaded on Sunday with the British-bred Price Tag, who landed the $500,000 Matriarch in her first start since arriving from France.

"I thought I was a lock in the race with Karen's Caper," Frankel said in the winner's circle. "This was a good substitute."

Price Tag ($6.40) and entrymate Mirabilis were sent off the favorite among 13 betting interests. In a wild finish that found the first seven runners separated by just two lengths, Price Tag rallied from 12th in the 14-horse field in the final furlong to edge Three Degrees by a half-length, with Pommes Frites a head farther back in third.

The 3-year-old Price Tag completed one mile on firm turf in 1:34.70. The victory was only her third in 10 starts, and was her first in a Grade 1 race. She was disqualified from victory in the Group 1 French 1000 Guineas in May.

Price Tag gave Frankel his third straight win in the Matriarch and his seventh in the race in its last 10 runnings. Frankel did not win the race last year, but neither did anyone else. It was canceled last fall when all grass racing was abandoned due to poor course conditions.

Like four of Frankel's previous winners, Price Tag is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, which also bred the daughter of Dansili.

River's Prayer opened a lengthy lead while tracked by Cambiocorsa and Pommes Frites through fractions of 23.53 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.54 for a half-mile.

Price Tag rallied wide, just inside of Three Degrees, and they ran down Pommes Frites, who had left her pace rivals at the top of the stretch and had a 1 1/2-length lead with a furlong remaining.

"She really kicked in strong," said Edgar Prado, who rode Price Tag.