12/28/2012 4:05PM

Steve Klein: Matriarch runner-up Tiz Flirtatious should appreciate longer distance of the Frankel

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Tiz Flirtatious drops out of a runner-up finish in a Grade 1 and gets a little extra distance in the Frankel Stakes.

Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Robert J. Frankel at Santa Anita is the last graded stakes race that will be run in 2012. This 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares is appealing to me as an exacta bettor.

Tiz Flirtatious won three of her first four races, including two of three on dirt and her lone start on a synthetic surface. Her third-place finish was still a good performance since it was earned in her first race against Grade 2 stakes company in the La Canada.

Tiz Flirtatious spent nearly nine months on the sidelines, from Jan. 22 to Oct. 13, then made her first start on grass when she made her comeback in the California Cup Distaff, a 6 1/2-furlong race down the hill at Santa Anita. She is bred to enjoy turf racing with a 324 turf Tomlinson, and showed an affinity for that surface when she closed from last of 11 to win that race going away, by 1  3/4 lengths.

The 93 Beyer she earned in her return was a career best for her, but she managed to surpass it when she stretched out to a mile on grass, and stepped up in class to tackle Grade 1 opponents in the Matriarch. She was seventh of eight, then closed ground along the inside down the stretch. She did her best running when she angled out in deep stretch to get a clear path, then surged to finish second, a length behind the winner, with a 96 Beyer.

The drop to a Grade 3 should make her formidable, and she figures to enjoy the extra furlong in this 1 1/8-mile race.

Qaraaba made her first U.S. start in a $62,500 second-level optional claiming race at Hollywood Park. She was last of seven, 13 lengths behind the leader, made up ground while still last, swung to the outside down the stretch, then powered past her rivals to win drawing away by 1 1/2 lengths without being asked for much by Julien Leparoux. That was her return from a four-month vacation, so improvement is likely with the benefit of that race. She’s a prime contender despite the class jump.

More Chocolate was the very comfortable winner of a highly rated first-level allowance on Nov. 1, then took nearly two months off. Trainer John Sadler has won 21 percent of his races with runners returning from short breaks of 31 through 60 days, slightly higher than his 19 percent wins overall. She’s lightly raced with just six starts, and can continue on the upswing at overlaid odds as she steps up in class.

Halo Dolly has won seven of her last 11 races, and 14 of 24 overall. She ran a career-best race three starts ago when she won the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon. She would be dangerous with a similar try, but her most recent form only looks as good as some of the other contenders who have more reason to improve this time than she does and might also provide more betting value. Anything less than her top form could leave her vulnerable at underlaid odds as she returns from a break of slightly more than 10 weeks.

Vivo Per Lei finished a solid third behind Halo Dolly in the Grade  2 Yellow Ribbon three races ago, and was also third last time in the Grade  3 Goldikova. She’ll be a factor for a part.

Camelia Rose regressed last time when she finished third of five as the heavy 1-2 favorite in a $62,500 second-level optional claiming race. She was fourth two races ago in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive, and fifth three races ago, only 2 1/2 lengths behind Halo Dolly in the Yellow Ribbon. She can compete for an exotic slot if she’s ready to roll after a freshening.

I Dazzle and Hard to Resist will have to improve to contend.

Imperialistic Diva needs a return to her best form to be competitive.

I’ll bet Tiz Flirtatious to win. I’ll assign dollar amounts to my exacta bets only to express an opinion of what the bet sizes should be relative to each other. Lower, or raise the stakes to whatever fits your bankroll. I’ll bet $10 exactas keying Tiz Flirtatious over Qaraaba and More Chocolate. I’ll also use $3 exactas to key Tiz Flirtatious over Halo Dolly, Vivo Per Lei, and Camelia Rose.