05/28/2010 11:00PM

Tizaqueena goes all the way in Matron


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Probably no human has spent more time on the back of the mare Tizaqueena than Hilary Pridham, assistant to trainer Mike Stidham. Five-year-old Tizaqueena came onto the racetrack late in 2007, and Pridham has been riding her during morning exercise - not galloping every single day, but always aboard for workouts - ever since. Tizaqueena is Pridham's favorite horse in the stable, and it is not hard to see why. With a two-length victory Saturday in the Tizaqueena won for the eighth time in just 15 starts. She has finished worse than third just twice, and now has won races on three different turf courses, on fast and wet dirt, and on a synthetic surface.

"She's just amazing," Pridham said after Tizaqueena had wired the Matron under jockey E.T. Baird. "When she was a baby, she was pretty crazy. She was always really impatient. Any time you wouldn't do it her way, she'd get mad. But now, she's learned to be more patient with us."

Once headstrong, Tizaqueena now turns off in push-button fashion. Baird sent her hard to the lead from a wide draw in the Matron, contested over 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack, but as soon as Tizaqueena made the front and crossed over to the inside part of the track, she was candy in her rider's hands.

"I thought I might have a hard time getting her back, but she was real kind," Baird said. "She came right back to me."

And that was the race. Tizaqueena and Baird set glacial splits of 25.44 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 51.53 to the half, and 1:16.62 for six furlongs, all while unpressured. No wonder Baird said he came into the stretch run with a fresh horse.

"She totally re-broke for me," said Baird.

Closing her last eighth of a mile in 12.42 seconds over a tiring main track, Tizaqueena never was threatened by the later runners, with Floating Heart a neck better than last year's Matron winner, Euphony, for the place spot. The winner paid $8.20 as the tepid favorite, and was timed in 1:53.57. Tizaqueena, by Tiznow, is owned by the Darley Stable, who purchased her from her breeder, the Stonerside Stable.

Veteran trainer Mike Stidham said he's never had a horse who so completely transferred her form between surfaces, and Tizaqueena could well wind up back on turf for her next start, with Stidham mentioning the Modesty Handicap and the Beverly D. here as potential summer goals.

Hanshin: Country Flavor in a shocker

Owner Jim Tafel and trainer Greg Geier scored a 2008 upset in the Hanshin Cup with 11-1 Coragil Cat, but that was nothing compared to their surprising Hanshin winner Saturday. Country Flavor went off at odds of 21-1, but held on for a three-quarters length victory over hard-charging Tybalt in the

Four-year-old Country Flavor, a Tafel homebred by Empire Maker and out of Allspice, was making his stakes debut in the Hanshin, and Geier said he would have run Country Flavor in a third-level allowance race had that been an option. But with no allowance at hand, Geier went for the Hanshin instead, and was rewarded for his boldness.

Credit also to jockey Inez Karlsson, who figured on paper that Country Flavor, a route horse lacking early zip, would be placed in mid-pack. But Karlsson said she quickly sensed that no rider was intent on making the lead, and she allowed sharp-breaking Country Flavor to contest a slow pace with Mad Flatter.

"No one else wanted to go, and I knew I wasn't going too fast," Karlsson said.

With horse beneath her around the far turn, Karlsson said she asked Country Flavor for run before even turning into the stretch.

"I wanted to open up, and have them catch me if they can," said Karlsson.

Up by 1 1/2 lengths at the stretch call, Country Flavor's advantage dwindled in the final furlong, as fast-closing Tybalt ate into the lead. But the wire came before Tybalt, and Country Flavor was home at $44.40. Winning time for the one-turn mile on slow-playing Polytrack was 1:38.16.

Tybalt finished one length in front of 3-1 favorite Gran Estreno for place. Both horses are trained by Mike Stidham.