Fair Hill Beat: Canadian Double for Matz

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Michael Matz sent two horses to Canada last week, and knew one was going to lose. That’s what happens when you run two horses in the same race.

“They both looked like they were in good form,” said the Fair Hill-based trainer. “I certainly don’t like to run them against each other but what are you going to do? There’s only going to be one winner, no matter how many you run.”

Matz wound up with the best possible result (short of a dead heat), however, as Minakshi and Colonial Flag finished 1-2 in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine Sunday, Sept. 15. Bred in France and racing for Northern Bloodstock, the 5-year-old mare picked up her first American win by a half-length over her rapidly closing stablemate to complete a $113.60 intra-stable exacta.

The win continued an international journey of sorts for Minakshi. She won four times her native land and was sent to Matz by the Ehrnooth family, owners of Northern Bloodstock. The Ehrnooths are from Finland and have a breeding Farm, Elevage du Haras de Bourgeauville, in France where the racehorses are trained by Pascal Bary. Matz previously trained American stakes winner Herboriste for Northern and Minakshi joined his string in Florida this winter. Her American debut had to wait due to some banged up hocks.

“Not from the plane, she was fine there, or from the quarantine; it was all from the ship from quarantine to Palm Meadows,” said Matz. “We couldn’t run her until we got up here.”

In her first start for Matz, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand finished second in Belmont Park’s Owsley in May, coming up a half-length short of Julie’s Love in the 1 ¼-mile turf stakes. The dark bay returned to Belmont and finished third in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, then fourth in the Grade 2 New York and third in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Matchmaker.

“She’s been knocking on the door,” Matz said. “I never thought she got the proper ride from the jocks. Either they were too far back or she was on the lead. She likes to run at a horse and I just thought if they could keep her off the pace a little bit she could run at a horse.”

She did that and more at Woodbine as Luis Contreras placed her sixth of nine early. La Tia and Ladys First set the pace ahead of favorite Solid Appeal through a half-mile in 46.53 seconds. Colonial Flag, coming off a win at Delaware Park, dropped even farther back in the field – sitting last for jockey Joe Rocco Jr.

In the stretch, Contreras angled outside with the winner and she  stormed to the front, getting past La Tia and then holding off her traveling partner late.

The Matz horses shipped from Fair Hill with Joy Cooper, who drove the truck, coordinated the final few days of training and put on the saddles in the paddock. She even wound up interviewed as Matz’s “assistant” afterward. Cooper and her husband Keith own Cooper Horse Transport and have the Woodbine trip down pat thanks to past excursions for Matz, Graham Motion and others at Fair Hill. Matz sent two grooms with his horses and let Cooper organize the rest.

“She does a great job,” he said. “She knows everybody up there, she knows our horses. It’s a good situation.”

Even if it is 500 miles away.

Matz watched the race on his phone from New York, where 2-year-old Tea Time broke her maiden earlier in the day and Assateague finished fourth in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont the day before. The success was part of a big few days for the barn as Yuzuru and Miss Lamour finished 1-2 in the Forever Together Stakes at Delaware Sept. 12. Thursday morning, Matz laughed about the run.

“If I’d known I might have put a couple of bucks on them,” he said between sets.

More from the Matz Barn

Matz said Minakshi (whose fourth dam is the great Pocahontas, who produced Tom Rolfe and Chieftain) was doubtful for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, even though the Canadian is part of the Win and You’re In program. She’s not nominated to the program and would need to be supplemented for $400,000. Win and You’re In only applies to nominated horses. Instead, she (and perhaps Colonial Flag) will prep toward a return to the North Country for Woodbine’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes Oct. 27 . . . Matz was pleased with Assateague’s fourth in the Noble Damsel, a Grade 3 with a nearly Grade 1 field, and thrilled with Tea Time’s maiden score at Belmont. The daughter of Pulpit exited a third behind Sweet Whiskey at Saratoga in August, and wired eight others in 1:09.58 for 6 furlongs at Belmont Sunday. Owned and bred by Sarah and Jon Kelly and Helen Groves, the Kentucky-bred could be headed to stakes company. Thursday morning, the “little bowling ball” was bouncing around a round pen in the sunshine outside Matz’s barn . . . Matz’s 2-year-old filly Who’s In Town, first past the wire in the Adirondack before being disqualified to fourth, is being pointed for the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Oct. 5.

Fair Hill Notes

Sagamore Farm and trainer Graham Motion won – really won – a 2-year-old maiden race at Presque Isle Downs Tuesday night. Maryland-bred Give No Quarter ran off to win by 22 ½ lengths for jockey Erick Rodriguez. Making his second start, the half-brother to stakes winner Tell A Great Story went to the front and widened at every call in a field of five. Motion watched from his barn office and was thrilled, if a little unsettled. “He’s definitely all right, but that might have made him look a little better than he was. We liked him, but I was surprised how comfortably he won.” Give No Quarter finished second sprinting at Presque Isle a month earlier, and clearly improved when stretched to a mile on Presque Isle’s synthetic surface. Next up could be the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland or the Grey Stakes at Woodbine . . . Kentucky Derby winner Orb was slated to work Monday in his final tightener before the Jockey Club Gold Cup next weekend at Belmont Park.

Watch Minakshi win at Woodbine.