Mike Stidham sent Princess Grace west in search of a hopeful Grade 1 coronation in Sunday’s Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar, whereupon he stabled her at Barn X.

Princess Grace-Matriarch
Princess Grace’s victory in September’s Ladies Turf Cup was her fourth consecutive stakes score. She is an 8/5 morning-line favorite to win her first Grade 1, the Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar. (Image: Coady Photography)

Now, the question is, can the four-time graded stakes winner can avoid a Brand X performance in her Grade 1 debut?

Princess Grace is one of six entrants into the Matriarch, which headlines closing day for Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Meet. The one-mile turf test is the final Grade 1 turf race of the year for older fillies and mares. The 4-year-old daughter of Karakontie is the slight 8/5 morning-line favorite to claim her seventh career win in her ninth start.

One of those six victories came at Del Mar in the Aug. 7 Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon. That was the third in a four-race winning streak that started with the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs last November, and which culminated with a September score in the Grade 3 Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs.

Matriarch the logical progression for Princess Grace

All four of the wins came in Grade 2 or Grade 3 events. The streak-stopper came at Del Mar in the Grade 2 Goldikova on the Breeders’ Cup Day 2 undercard earlier this month. There, Princess Grace set the pace and led until the eighth-pole, whereupon she got passed by winner Going Global and runner-up Zofelle, who is 5/1 in the Matriarch.

The two-length third-place finish as the 11/10 favorite had no bearing on Stidham’s long-term plans for his star filly.

“This was the long-range goal all along from the beginning of the year; try to make the Grade 1 and run well in the Matriarch,” Stidham told Del Mar’s media department. “So, here we are. We’re glad to be here and the filly has done well since the Breeders’ Cup.”

Eastern invaders know path to winner’s circle

Princess Grace put in one Del Mar workout since the Breeders’ Cup. That Nov. 21, four-furlong 50.80 clocking was sixth of 11 at that distance that day.

“Just a comfortable half-mile breeze and I couldn’t be happier with the way she’s going into (the Matriarch),” Stidham said.

Princess Grace is one of four Eastern invaders, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Shippers claimed the last five Matriarchs, with Chad Brown figuring prominently. He’s won three of those, including last year’s with Viadera, who finds herself as the 5/2 third-favorite. Morning line author Jon White tacked that number on her, more mindful of her 1-for-3 record in 2021 than her nose victory over stablemate Blowout last year.

Defending champion a third choice here

Viadera did win the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga on Travers Day (Aug. 28). Her other two 2021 outings weren’t as productive, with a fourth in a minor Saratoga stakes and a sixth in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland.

The Brown spotlight shines brighter on Regal Glory (9/5), who finished second by a half-length in that First Lady to Blowout. That came with a career-best 113 Equibase Speed Figure. Regal Glory owns three stakes wins in her last five starts: two ungraded and a September 2020 Grade 3 at Kentucky Downs.

Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes/Del Mar

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Princess Grace, 8/5 (Kent Desormeaux/Michael Stidham)
  2. Bodhicitta, 12/1 (John Velazquez/Richard Baltus)
  3. Viadera, 5/2 (Flavien Prat/Chad Brown)
  4. Fast Jet Court, 20/1 (Drayden Van Dyke/Mike McCarthy)
  5. Zofelle, 5/1 (Umberto Rispoli/Brendan Walsh)
  6. Regal Glory, 9/5 (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown)

Shopping local means staking your hopes on the two long shots, 12/1 Bodhicitta or 20/1 Brazilian import Fast Jet Court. Richard Baltus’ Bodhicitta claimed the 2020 Yellow Ribbon, but finished fifth by 6 ¼ lengths in the Goldikova. Trained by Michael McCarthy, Fast Jet Court hasn’t finished better than fourth in three North American races.

Meanwhile, it’s mandatory payout day for Del Mar’s 20-cent Pick 6 Jackpot wager. Nobody solved the single-ticket puzzle for the 12th consecutive day. That sends a $590,935 carryover into Sunday, where new money chasing that payout could push the pool upwards of $4 million.