11/21/2009 12:00AM

Ventura looks to go out on a high

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ventura worked a half-mile at Hollywood Park on Saturday in preparation for her final career start in this weekend's Grade 1 Matriarch.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The highlight of Hollywood Park's fall meeting unquestionably is next weekend's turf festival, featuring five graded stakes races over three days, three of which are Grade 1 races. For many horses, including the brilliant Ventura, it will be their last chance to shine before going to the breeding shed.

Ventura, one of the top female runners in the country for two straight years, will be making her final start in the Grade 1, $300,000 Matriarch Stakes on Saturday. Ventura most recently finished second in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, but some of her best races have come on turf, especially at one mile, the distance of the Matriarch. Ventura won the Woodbine Mile earlier this year, was beaten by a nose in the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, and last year won the Just a Game at Belmont Park, all at one mile on turf.

Ventura has finished first or second in her last nine starts. In three of those races, she lost by a nose or a head.

On Saturday morning, Ventura completed her preparation for the Matriarch with a half-mile work in 48 seconds at Hollywood Park for trainer Humberto Ascanio. The move was termed breezing by the track's clockers. Of the 115 horses who worked Saturday at Hollywood Park, only three received breezing designations, which are given out stingily in California.

In addition to Ventura, the Matriarch field is expected to include April Pride, Diamonrella, Rutherienne, and Tuscan Evening. Diamondrella was supplemented this past week to the race for $6,000. A recent purchase of IEAH Stables, Diamondrella is now trained by Gary Stevens.

Preceding the Matriarch is the Grade 1, $300,000 Citation Handicap for older horses at 1 1/16 miles on turf on Friday. Ascanio, the long-time assistant to the late Bobby Frankel, sent out both both Fluke (1:00.80) and Proudinsky (1:00.60) for five-furlong works Saturday morning.

Across town at Santa Anita, Cowboy Cal, who is expected to make his final career start in the Citation, worked a half-mile in 50.20 seconds for trainer Todd Pletcher.

In addition to Cowboy Cal, Fluke, and Proudinsky, the Citation field is expected to include Blue Chagall, El Gato Malo, Enriched, Ever a Friend, Monzante, Skyrush, and Whatsthescript. Another possibility is Times Gone By, who worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Santa Anita on Saturday morning for trainer Richard Mandella.

The turf festival closes Sunday with the Grade 1, $300,000 Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Five horses - Al Khali, Blazing Spirit, Rescue Squad, Sir Al, and The Usual Q.T. - were supplemented this past week to the race for $6,000.

Others expected for the Hollywood Derby include Acclamation, Battle of Hastings, Black Bear Island, Meteore, Sal the Barber, and Take the Points.

Bridgetown, the second-place finisher in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, is expected to head the field in the Grade 3, $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds on Saturday. He worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Saturday morning at Santa Anita for trainer Ken McPeek.

* He's getting closer. Lava Man, off for more than a year, turned in the fastest six-furlong drill of the morning at Hollywood Park on Saturday when he was timed in 1:12.20 for trainer Doug O'Neill.