Hard Not to Like potentially vulnerable in large Matriarch cast
A narrow winner of the Gamely (G1) and Diana (G1), the latter by a nose over Tepin, Hard Not to Like enters the Matriarch off her worst performance since joining the Christophe Clement barn last year. Favored at 17-10 in the 1 1/4-mile Rodeo Drive (G1) at Santa Anita in late September, Hard Not to Like came up empty in the stretch and finished eighth in a field of 10. Hard Not to Like was subsequently scratched from the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) after developing a cough.
In addition to that puzzling last effort, bettors might also be wary of Hard Not to Like's ability to weave through this congested field of 14 at such a short distance. Hard Not to Like has won once in three attempts at a mile on turf, but has often needed every inch of 1 1/16 miles or nine furlongs to show her best.
Filimbi's only previous graded stakes win in the U.S. came in her last trip to California, for the 2014 Goldikova (G2) at Santa Anita last November. The Juddmonte Farms homebred has been a prominent player in other races, though, edging Hard Not to Like for second in the Jenny Wiley (G1) and coming within a half-length of Tepin in the Just a Game (G1) at Belmont in June.
Filimbi recently returned from a five-month layoff, eking out a head victory in an allowance at Belmont over a mile.
Also invading from the East Coast are Noble Damsel (G3) winner Recepta, whose longshot bid in he Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) resulted in a last-place finish; Stellar Path, the Clement-trained Athenia (G3) winner; and Olorda, a French Group 3 winner that adds blinkers following a fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1).
Making her debut for trainer Peter Miller is Crowley's Law, third in the Noble Damsel and second to Tepin in the First Lady (G1) before taking the $103,000 River Memories at Woodbine last time.
Horses for the course in the Matriarch field include She's Not Here, who is two-for-two on the Del Mar lawn. In her most recent trip west in September, She's Not Here edged San Clemente H. (G2) winner Prize Exhibit by a half-length in the Yellow Ribbon H. (G2).
Circuit veterans Queen of the Sand and Stormy Lucy merit respect in exotics plans, while the speedy Curlin's Fox is the one to catch after romping by 4 1/2 lengths in the $87,000 Sandy Blue H. at Del Mar in August in a mile time of 1:33 1/5.
Thirteen two-year-olds were entered for the $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille (G3) over a mile on the turf. Dressed in Hermes, hero of the $100,000 Zuma Beach at Santa Anita prior to a fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), is the likely favorite.
Other potential contenders include Grade 2-placed front runner Manhattan Dan; Imperious One, a British import debuting for Doug O'Neill; Del Mar Juvenile Turf runner-up Hot Ore; and last-out maiden scorers Collected, Tusk, and Frank Conversation.
(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)