11/26/2004 1:00AM

Ticker Tape faces elders in Matriarch

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Horsephotos
Musical Chimes (center) leads a competitive field in the Matriarch.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Nothing is easy Sunday at Hollywood Park, where three days of international turf racing conclude with two Grade 1 puzzles and a million-dollar raffle in the guaranteed-pool pick six.

The $500,000 Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds is the ninth of 10 races, and miler Blackdoun can only win if he can stay 1 1/4 miles. Blackdoun and longshot German import Fight Club head a field of 13 in the derby, while the seventh race, the Matriarch, is the premier race of the three-day Autumn Turf Festival.

How tough is the $500,000 Matriarch for fillies and mares? Ticker Tape's trainer, Jim Cassidy, surveyed the nine-runner field.

"I took one look at the race, put it down, and went back to training," he said. "That race scares me to death."

It should. Only two entrants are cross-outs, and before Ticker Tape gains championship consideration as outstanding female turf horse, she must defeat older. Ticker Tape has dominated the 3-year-old filly turf ranks with Grade 1 wins in the American Oaks and Queen Elizabeth. Sunday, things get tougher.

Musical Chimes beat males one back and is expected to start favored after a tough-trip sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Denebola arrived this week from France for her first start since a runner-up finish vs. Group 1 male sprinters. Intercontinental and Etoile Montante, Grade 2 winners this year for Bobby Frankel and Juddmonte Farms, race as separate betting interests. Ocean Drive and Island Fashion were entered; likely pacesetter Hoh Buzzard and Quero Quero appear overmatched.

Musical Chimes is trying to right two wrongs - a bad trip in the Breeders' Cup Mile and a bad beat, by a neck, in last year's Matriarch. Musical Chimes's trainer, Neil Drysdale, said that since the Breeders' Cup, "we haven't done much with her. She's fit; I'm happy with the way she is."

Given the choice between Musical Chimes and Ticker Tape, jockey Kent Desormeaux took Musical Chimes, who has won 4 of 17.

Intercontinental and Etoile Montante try to add to Frankel's five Matriarch wins in the past eight years.

"Both of them are doing really well," Frankel said, adding that he prefers Intercontinental "because of post." Intercontinental drew post 4; Etoile Montante drew post 9.

Frankel said Intercontinental "was not ready to run" when second in the Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy, a sprint on the Santa Anita turf in September.

"She's fit now," Frankel said. "The only problem is there's not much pace in the race."

Jerry Bailey will have his hands full with Intercontinental, a hard-pulling filly who can be difficult to ride. She has won 7 of 14.

Etoile Montante could make the lead, though Frankel said, "I haven't made up my mind whether to go to the lead, or take back. [From the outside] you have to either commit to go, or take back. You have to go one way or the other."

Etoile Montante finished 11th as the favorite in last year's Matriarch, but Frankel said she "didn't look like the same filly she looks like now."

Edgar Prado rides Etoile Montante, who has won 7 of 15.

While the Matriarch may be the final career start for Intercontinental and Etoile Montante, Frankel will inherit French import Denebola after the Matriarch. A 3-year-old filly, her form has steadily improved this year, and trainer Pascal Bary said her most recent start was on ground softer than she prefers.

"She has a turn of foot," he said. "She will be just behind the leaders."

Gary Stevens rides Denebola. Ticker Tape, who has won 7 of 17, will be ridden for the first time by Victor Espinoza.

"It's a big concern," Cassidy admits, "but who knows? Maybe Victor will fit her better. I think a mile is right up her alley. The question is, how is she going to handle the olders?"

A $1 million guaranteed pool in the pick six covers races 5-10.