Updated on 09/17/2011 11:12AM

Volga rallies to win Matchmaker


OCEANPORT, N.J. - A well-rested Volga unleashed a dramatic stretch run Sunday afternoon to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Matchmaker Handicap at Monmouth Park.

The 5-year-old mare, who had not raced since December, rolled through the lane to beat Something Ventured by 1 3/4 lengths in the stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

The Matchmaker was the only one of the three scheduled grass races to remain on the turf following overnight showers.

Volga ($7.00) stopped the clock in 1:48.22 over the course labeled "good" with Joe Bravo aboard for trainer Christophe Clement.

Ninth after three-quarters of a mile, Volga angled outside a wall of horses and advanced steadily once in the clear. She swept past rivals on the far outside under Bravo, who won three races on the afternoon.

He approached this assignment brimming with confidence.

"She was tons the best," Bravo said. "In the stretch, she just exploded. It's nice when you ride the best horse in the race."

Volga left little doubt of that, despite the layoff.

"She was doing very good in the mornings," said Arnaud Delacour, an assistant trainer for Clement. "She had some decent works. The last week, she was training really good."

The Irish-bred daughter of Caerleon posted her fifth win in 14 starts and first stakes victory since arriving in North America in the summer of 2001.

She carried 116 pounds, one less than Something Venture, the high weight who also uncorked a solid rally to get second. Cocktailsandreams, a midpack stalker, scooted up the fence to grab the lead turning for home. She held on for third.

Loving Lucy rolled to an 11 3/4 length win in the supporting event, the $50,000 Junior Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. It was one of the grass races moved to the main track.

Jose C. Ferrer rode Loving Lucy ($6.20) for the meet's leading owner-trainer combination, Michael Gill and Mark Shuman.