Starine, Denon nose out pack at Hollywood Grade 1 races

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2001

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Trainer Bobby Frankel swept Sunday's $500,000 Grade I races at Hollywood Park, with Starine winning the Matriarch and Denon capturing the Hollywood Derby.

Starine came from off the pace to beat Lethals Lady by 2 1/2 lengths in the Matriarch. About an hour later, Denon defeated Sligo Bay by one length in the Derby to send Frankel back to the winner's circle.

Frankel's victories gave him 16 in Grade I stakes this year. He has 47 stakes wins, including 30 in turf races this year.

''It's an up and down day,'' he said. ''It's hard to celebrate when someone is suffering.''

The Matriarch was marred by an accident involving Spook Express, who was euthanized after falling near the finish line.

The 7-year-old mare appeared to misstep, fall on her back and slide on a turf course labeled soft. Jockey Mike Smith was thrown off, but was not injured.

''These animals are very big and when they step funny, sometimes something goes, and that's what seemed to happen,'' Smith said. ''It was too bad because the race was almost over.''

Jockey John Velazquez guided Starine over 1 1-8 miles on the turf in 1:50.

The victory was Velazquez's fourth major stakes win of the weekend.

Velazquez swept three big races Saturday at Aqueduct, then flew to Hollywood Park.

''I had to come out and ride this filly. She's been very good to me,'' he said. ''She ran a great race. It was a little bit soft, but she handled it perfect. She was very aggressive.''

Frankel arrived about noon on a flight from Japan, where he saddled Timboroa to a last-place finish in the $2 million Japan Cup, and Lido Palace to an eighth-place finish in the Japan Cup Dirt.

''It's been two days since I slept,'' the unshaven Frankel said. ''They ran bad in Japan, but at least I came back with two nice horses.''

Starine paid $8.80, $5.20 and $3.20. Lethals Lady, ridden by Corey Nakatani, returned $13.20 and $6.40, while Golden Apples was another neck back in third and paid $2.80 to show.

''I had a perfect trip,'' Velazquez said. ''She broke good, was lying second, and she settled beautifully.

She made it look really easy. She's run over this type of ground before and she handled the footing perfectly.''

Frankel bought Starine earlier this year in France.

The Hall of Fame trainer has saddled four Matriarch winners, but never owned one before.

In the Derby for 3-year-olds, Denon covered 1 1-8 miles in 1:49 1-5 and paid $4.20, $3 and $3. Irish-bred Sligo Bay returned $8 and $7.80, while the Frankel-trained Aldebaran was third as part of an entry with Denon.

Frankel's third entry, Blue Steller, was eighth in the 12-horse Derby field.

Chris McCarron won his first Derby, and his victory tied Bill Shoemaker's career record of 280 stakes wins at Hollywood Park.

Denon was making his North American debut after winning two races in Europe. Frankel has said the son of Pleasant Colony might be his best 3-year-old.

''I told you this was the best one,'' Frankel said.

The effects of Saturday's driving rain lingered on a sunny Sunday when several horses were scratched and two of the card's 10 races were taken off the turf course, which was downgraded to soft.

Defending champion Tout Charmant was scratched from the Matriarch.

After winning last year, the 5-year-old mare suffered a bout of colic, which required surgery.

Also scratched was Tranquility Lake, who was second to Tout Charmant last year, and Starrer.

Frankel said the turf was firmer than he initially thought.

''I thought the soft turf would help her and she'd relax a little more,'' he said. ''The only thing I didn't like was the post (11th in a 12-horse field).''

The turf didn't hurt his chances, however.

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