10/18/2008 11:00PM

Tejida a gate-to-wire threat

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes will encompass 12 furlongs, three turns, and, Michael Matz is hoping, very few changes on the lead.

That's because Matz will send out the expected front-runner, Tejida, in the 17th running of the $150,000 Dowager on Sunday at Keeneland.

The Dowager is the fall counterpart to the Bewitch Stakes, a filly-mare turf marathon run every spring at Keeneland. Three starts back, Tejida was sent away a lukewarm favorite in the April 24 Bewitch, leading from the start only to finish second by a half-length to Communique.

"One of these days she's going to win one of these things," said Matz, who trains Tejida for his mother-in-law, owner-breeder Helen Groves.

Tejida, with Javier Castellano to ride, will break from post 5 in what should be a full field in the Dowager. The key to success for Tejida, said Matz, is "getting her to relax."

"She is a real good mare, a very competitive mare," he said.

Last time out, she faded to sixth after setting the pace in the Sept. 1 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga.

"She just refused to cooperate," Matz said. "But if Javier can get her to go easy, we might pull this one off."

Fourteen fillies and mares were entered in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager, although only as many as 12 can start. If Tejida is unable to persevere, a host of others could come calling, including Palmilla, who was a late-closing second in the Glens Falls before finishing fifth in her latest start, the Grade 1 Flower Bowl on Sept. 27.

Palmilla is owned by Augustin Stable and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, the team that won the Dowager last year with Omeya, ridden by the since-retired Mark Guidry.

Other viable contenders in a deep Dowager field include Solva, a California invader with dangerous tactical speed; Herboriste, another Matz-trained mare enjoying easily the best year of her career; Viva La Flag, a classy-looking filly from the Phipps Stable; and Caprice, a former French mainstay making her fourth start in the United States since being sent to trainer Graham Motion.

The Dowager, the last of four listed stakes at the fall meet, dates to 1992. It is the eighth of nine races on a Sunday card that ends strongly, with allowances surrounding it as races 6, 7, and 9. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.