Matron Stakes’ top two start 2023 season fresh

Pretty Birdie works out Saturday at Oaklawn. Pretty Birdie is entered in today's $250,000 Matron Stakes. - Photo courtesy of Coady Photography
Pretty Birdie works out Saturday at Oaklawn. Pretty Birdie is entered in today's $250,000 Matron Stakes. - Photo courtesy of Coady Photography

In a late change of plans, Frankie is staying in Hollywood, not coming to Hot Springs.

Flying dismounts thus become less likely today at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, though stormy weather looms a threat on the eve of the season's biggest day.

Last-minute shuffling keeps world-class jockey Frankie Dettori in California, costing the 52-year-old amateur acrobat on horseback two local mounts. He was to ride Teddy's Barino, a Mark Glatt shipper from the West Coast, in the inaugural $250,000 Matron Stakes for filly sprinters at six furlongs. Dettori had a ride two races earlier on Adaline Julia, a two-time meet winner owned by meet-leading Hot Springs horseman Jerry Caroom and from the barn of leading trainer Robertino Diodoro.

Even without Dettori involved, the Matron looks potent on paper. Grade 1 winner Matareya represents trainer Brad Cox and multiple Grade 2 winner Wicked Halo gets sideline support from Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Unlike some in the field, neither has started in 2023, awaiting her 4-year-old debut or won over the track.

A 4-year-old with two Oaklawn stakes wins underneath her, Pretty Birdie gets a recency edge in the Matron. Winner last year of Oaklawn's Purple Martin and Poinsettia, Bird Song's daughter ran a game second to reigning Fantasy winner Yuugiri Feb. 25 in the slop. Norm Casse, winning at a 40% rate at the meeting with limited starters, trains for the late Marylou Whitney, also the filly's breeder. David Cabrera, her rider in both local wins, keeps the mount under co-high weight of 124 pounds.

Matareya won last year's Grade 1 Acorn mile after leaving Oaklawn, her last of three consecutive graded triumphs for owner-breeder Godolphin. Flavien Prat rides the Pioneerof the Nile filly with a 7-pound break, last racing Aug. 6 in Saratoga's Grade 1 Test.

Wicked Halo, a Grade 2 winner in both seasons of racing for owner Ron Winchell, is another able runner sired by Winchell-owned 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. Asmussen also trained Gun Runner, that year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner after taking the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn when an overseas trip fell through. Tyler Gaffalione, her rider in four straight stakes victories (two graded), keeps the mount, also carrying 117.

American Beauty runner-up I'm the Boss of Me, fourth in the Poinsettia, breaks from the rail with Francisco Arrieta riding the two-time Oaklawn winner of last season. Greg Compton claimed the filly for $30,000 at Oaklawn Dec. 31, 2021.

Meanwhile, Dealing Justice, a March 2 winner for trainer Riley Mott, has Isaac Castillo riding in the silks of track president Louis Cella. Samurai Charm makes her local debut for trainer Peter Miller after dealing with graded company in California.

Ninth of 10 races on the card before 13 on Arkansas Derby Day, the Matron is set for 4:58 p.m. Be aware of possible stormy weather locally and statewide.