11/27/2009 12:00AM

Ventura tries to win one for Frankel

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Barbara D. Livingston
Ventura, a multiple Grade 1 winner, will make her final start in the Matriarch on Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Humberto Ascanio will be listed as trainer of Ventura for Saturday's $300,000 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park, but if the brilliant 5-year-old wins the Grade 1 race over a mile on turf, he will not take credit.

Ascanio's thoughts will be with the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died on Nov. 16 after a lengthy illness. Even in his final days, Frankel was coaching Ascanio, his assistant, on how to prepare Ventura.

"This is Bobby's," Ascanio said on Thanksgiving morning. "He made this filly. I just followed orders and trained her the way he trained. I want this, just for him."

Frankel won more runnings of the Matriarch than any other trainer - eight from 1996 to 2007, including four straight from 2004-07. Juddmonte, which owns Ventura, owned five of those winners.

Ventura, 5, is expected to make her final start in the Matriarch. By Chester House, Ventura was second as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 6. In her most recent start on turf, she beat males in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in September.

"The Breeders' Cup was supposed to be her last race," Ascanio said. "Bobby suggested one more race in the Matriarch."

The Matriarch is the eighth race on a 10-race program that includes the Grade 3 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds over a mile on turf.

The Breeders' Cup loss will not affect the enthusiasm bettors have for Ventura. She has won 9 of 20 starts and $2,400,530, and has been first or second in her last nine starts, a span that includes four major stakes wins.

In the Filly and Mare Sprint, Ventura chased a slow pace, was eighth on the turn, and got within 1 1/4 lengths of Informed Decision at the finish.

"The pace was 23 and 45, and with those kind of fillies you can't give them that much advantage," Ascanio said. "They'll be sprinting at the end. A good filly beat her anyway."

Ventura should have a pace to follow in the Matriarch, which has drawn a field of seven, six of whom are graded or group stakes winners. Taste's Sis, a longshot seeking her first stakes win, and Tuscan Evening, who has won two Grade 2 one-mile turf races this year, will be on the front.

Tuscan Evening won the Grade 2 Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita in her last start, on Nov. 6, and will be well-supported. April Pride and Puttanesca will be longshots. April Pride won the Grade 3 Harold Ramser Handicap for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf on Oct. 24, but has not won outside her age group. Puttanesca was a stakes winner in New Zealand last year, but has shown little in two starts in this country.

Aside from Ventura, two others in the Matriarch field ran in Breeders' Cup races earlier this month - Diamondrella was 11th against males in the BC Turf Sprint and Rutherienne was seventh in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Diamondrella is seeking her third Grade 1 win of 2009 in the Matriarch, and a win would enhance her chances for the Eclipse Award as the outstanding turf female. Owned by IEAH Stables, Diamondrella won the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park in June and the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland in October.

She was trained by Angel Penna Jr. through the Breeders' Cup. After going through the sales ring in Kentucky in early November, but not selling, Diamondrella was sent to trainer Gary Stevens in California.

"She fit right back into a schedule" after the sale, Stevens said.

Stevens dismissed Diamondrella's loss in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, saying she was unfamiliar with the hillside turf course.

"It didn't look like she was real content, whether it was coming down the hill or what," he said. "She got banged around a bit at the start. It looked like she was a little bit lost. She's getting back to her game now."

Diamondrella will need to be at her best against Ventura.

"I'm excited to face her," Stevens said of Ventura. "It's no easy test, but no Grade 1 is. [Diamondrella] has proven her quality and deserves the opportunity to run."