February 20, 2024

Got Stormy tops Matriarch; United bids for breakthrough in Hollywood Turf Cup

Got Stormy
Got Stormy easily defeated male rivals in the Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga (c) Janet Garaguso/Adam Coglianese Photography

The Bing Crosby season at Del Mar goes out with a bang on Sunday, featuring a trio of graded turf stakes. Two of the favorites are coming off seconds in Breeders’ Cup races – Mile (G1) runner-up Got Stormy hopes to persuade the Eclipse Award electorate in the $300,000 Matriarch (G1), and United, a 51-1 near-misser in the Turf (G1), aims for a first stakes win in the $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup (G2).

Got Stormy transformed herself from a garden-variety graded stakes player to a potential division leader at Saratoga this summer. Wheeling back on a week’s rest from her De La Rose romp, the Mark Casse filly dismissed males – and fellow distaffer Uni – in the Fourstardave (G1) in a course-record 1:32.00 for the mile. Got Stormy was favored to follow up in the Woodbine Mile (G1), but a “good” course blunted her just enough to come up a half-length shy of El Tormenta. She went off as the Breeders’ Cup Mile favorite as well, only to have Uni whizz past in deep stretch.

With Uni, last year’s Matriarch winner, in winter quarters, Got Stormy looks to succeed her on the throne. And a second Grade 1 tally might sway some Eclipse voters toward her in the champion turf female category. But an accomplished field lies in wait,

Uni’s trainer, Chad Brown, has another arrow in his quiver as he searches for a third straight Matriarch. This time he dispatches Significant Form. Three-for-four in 2019 with her only loss coming in a turf sprint experiment, she captured the Ballston Spa (G2) and Noble Damsel (G3) in her last pair.

Brad Cox sends Juliet Foxtrot, who nearly upset Vasilika in the John C. Mabee (G2) here in August. Since then the Juddmonte Farms homebred was best of the rest in Uni’s course-record First Lady (G1) at Keeneland. Daddy Is a Legend likewise sports the Uni formline, as the close runner-up in the 2018 Matriarch. The George Weaver pupil has performed well in both of her trips to Del Mar, for she dominated the 2017 Jimmy Durante (G3) as a juvenile.

Toinette, who upset Rushing Fall and Daddy Is a Legend in the 2018 Edgewood (G3), most recently added the Goldikova (G2) in style over Simply Breathless, her stablemate from the Neil Drysdale barn. In the process the Scat Daddy filly extended her record to a perfect four-for-four at this mile trip.

Storm the Hill returns to the scene of her photo-finish loss in the Yellow Ribbon (G2), while Peter Miller’s turf sprinter Painting Corners stretches out. Sophomores Giza Goddess and Mucho Unusual, second and third in the Autumn Miss (G3) last out, face a task versus elders for the first time. But Mucho Unusual can claim a course-and-distance win in the San Clemente (G2), and Giza Goddess brings upside in her second start off the long layoff for John Shirreffs. Fellow three-year-old Lakerball has a taller order in her first start since April.

Bricks and Mortar wins the Breeders' Cup Turf
Bricks and Mortar capped an unbeaten season by edging United in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson)

The 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup arguably has less strength in depth. United, who’d placed in the Charles Whittingham (G2) and John Henry Turf Championship (G2) at 1 1/4 miles, thrived over the added ground in the Breeders’ Cup Turf to beat all bar but Bricks and Mortar. The Richard Mandella trainee is favored to turn the tables on John Henry winner Cleopatra’s Strike, who has yet to try this distance. John Henry fourth Oscar Dominguez figures to appreciate the stretch-out as the Del Mar H. (G2) and San Juan Capistrano (G3) runner-up.

Turf veteran Itsinthepost is in the rare position of shortening up after taking the 1 3/4-mile Marathon (G2) on the dirt Breeders’ Cup Friday. Jeff Mullins’ multiple Grade 2 hero remains 0-for-12, however, at Del Mar. Other contenders include Marathon runner-up Zestful; Chilean import Brown Storm, eligible to move forward from a Lure fifth in his stateside debut; last-out allowance winners Chosen Vessel, Overdue, and Ward ‘n Jerry; and Paddy Gallagher’s new recruit High Promise.

Juveniles kick off the stakes action in the $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille (G3). Breeders’ Cup also-rans Hit the Road, War Beast, and Encoder – the respective first, second, and fourth from the Zuma Beach two back – are entitled to do better but meet several fresh faces including Mandella’s sharp debut winners Goliad and Kanderel. Goliad adds Lasix after missing narrowly in an allowance to the more experienced Hariboux. Also adding Lasix are Godolphin’s blueblood Albert Park, two-for-two on all-weather after landing the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial; Team Valor’s Irish import Last Opportunity; and Miller’s Gulfstream pick-up Go Time.

Of interest on the undercard is the return of Instagrand in the 4TH race. Sidelined since his subpar eighth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on Kentucky Derby Day, the OXO Equine runner makes his debut for new trainer Don Chatlos. The 6 1/2-furlong allowance is also the comeback spot for Bob Baffert’s Much Better, last seen finishing seventh in the Woody Stephens (G1) on Belmont Day.