Having trained Ryafan for the first nine starts of her career, John Gosden wasn't about to miss her quest for a championship in the $700,000 Matriarch on Sunday at Hollywood Park.
The English-born and based Gosden flew over for the centerpiece of Hollywood Park's six-race Turf Festival and the result guaranteed he will have an enjoyable flight home.
Able to handle a grass course softened considerably by heavy rain, Ryafan, the 2-1 favorite, won for the third time in as many U.S. starts and no doubt wrapped up the Eclipse Award as the top female turf runner.
In what may have been her final race, the 3-year-old Lear Fan filly and jockey Alex Solis tracked the pace of longshot Chile Chatte most of the way, drew clear in the stretch, then withstood the late run of Maxzene to win by a head in 2:05 4/5 for the 1 1/4 miles.
Now trained by Bobby Frankel for Juddmonte Farms, Ryafan won four of seven in Europe before arriving in the United States. Before the Matriarch, she had won the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 4 and the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita early last month. Her victory Sunday enabled her to become only the third horse and first since Sangue in 1983 to complete a Yellow Ribbon-Matriarch parlay.
"She's the best I've had since Royal Heroine [who won the 1984 Breeders' Cup Mile and Matriarch and an Eclipse Award]," Gosden said. "A filly like her doesn't come along too often."
Frankel, who has won the last two Eclipses in the female turf division with 1996 Matriarch winner Wandesta and Possibly Perfect, has been effusive in his praise of Ryafan since she came to California.
"I'm very excited," Frankel said. "She showed what a great filly she is. When Maxzene ran up to her, Ryafan really showed her guts. She dug in again.
"We wanted to let Chile Chatte go and just follow her and it worked out. She's just very, very game. I don't even know if the course favors speed today, she just might be that good. She's probably the best I've ever trained."
Maxzene, who was in line for the Eclipse had she won Sunday and the filly Gosden feared most, had traffic trouble as the 5-2 third choice and finished nearly three lengths ahead of third-place finisher Yokama.
"I thought she ran a terrific race," trainer Tom Skiffington said of the runner-up, who hasn't been worse than second in six starts this year. "She doesn't get as much publicity as some of the other fillies, but I think after today, people might start taking her [seriously]."
The disappointment in the race was 5-2 second choice Memories Of Silver. She finished sixth, beating only Fanjica and Real Connection.
She had a lot of trouble in the Yellow Ribbon, but had no excuses Sunday, and trainer James Toner didn't offer any.
"The best horse won," he said. "And another great one was second. Ryafan deserves the Eclipse."
Solis, who won the Matriarch for the first time, wasn't about to argue.
"She was ready," he said. "She came out of there running and that's what I was hoping for. I wanted somebody to follow around there and when I asked her to run, I had a lot of horse at the finish.
"When I heard [Maxzene] coming, my filly started running again. She wasn't ever going to go by her. She's awesome. It's a very incredible feeling to ride a filly like this."
Cash Asmussen, who rode Maxzene, thought the outcome would have been different if he had had clear sailing.
"For [Maxzene] to make up the kind of ground that she did was amazing," he said. "She's just a lovely filly. Take nothing away from the winner--we know she's a champion--but I think I'm a winner today if I don't get caught in traffic."
Horse Racing Notes
Supercilious, the 17-10 favorite, rallied to beat 6-1 shot Fleeting Image and won the $100,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap Sunday at Hollywood Park. Ridden by Brice Blanc for trainer Richard Mandella and owner Herman Sarkowsky, the 4-year-old Skywalker filly won by a length in 1:28 2/5 for the 7 1/2 furlongs. Folklore finished third. . . . Jockey Martin Pedroza was given a five-day suspension, beginning Friday, after being disqualified on Rebel Spell on Friday.