(Trainer Wesley Ward will saddle Royal Approval for G3 Matron / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Three Chimneys Farm’s Royal Approval will seek to parlay an impressive maiden victory into graded stakes company when taking on seven other juvenile fillies in Sunday’s 111th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Matron going six furlongs over the Widener turf at Belmont Park.
Originally contested on dirt, the Matron – along with its male counterpart the Grade 3, $100,000 Futurity – was moved to the grass in 2018 upon introduction of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint to give 2-year-old turf sprinting fillies an opportunity to garner black type. The historic race has seen some of racing’s finest fillies notch a victory early on in their storied careers including Maskette (1908), Top Flight (1938), Busher (1944), Bed o’ Roses (1949), Cicada (1961), Numbered Account (1971) and La Prevoyante (1972). The Matron was also used as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Meadow Star (1990), Flanders (1994), Storm Flag Flying (2002) and Folklore (2005) all notching the Matron-Juvenile Fillies double.
Trained by Wesley Ward, who saddled Happy Like a Fool to victory in the 2017 Matron, Royal Approval arrives off her best performance yet when besting a maiden special weight field going 6 ½ furlongs at Kentucky Downs, where she drew off to a 6 ¼ length victory.
Following a runner-up finish on debut to stablemate Campanelle at Gulfstream Park, the daughter of Tiznow faced her stablemate once more in England at Royal Ascot, where she was off slow and was never a factor, finishing 17th in the Group 2 Queen Mary to Campanelle, who replicated that effort to win the Group 1 Prix Morny on August 23 at Deauville.
Ward said soft turf appears to be the filly’s kryptonite and blamed her lackluster performance at Royal Ascot on the wet ground.
“Royal Approval is really training some kind of good,” Ward said. “She’s a really nice filly. She’s a big filly, that’s why she was the favorite going into her first start. The only thing she can’t do is run on the soft turf. We took her over to Europe and she ran dismal. We took a chance just because we were there, but she can’t stand up on the soft turf. That’s why we brought her home, gave her a little freshening and we took her to Saratoga. The bad luck continued there where she entered twice and was scratched twice with the soft turf. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.”
Ward spoke volumes of Royal Approval’s maiden triumph and said that he has been impressed with her breezes heading into the race. She worked five furlongs in 1:02 flat over a firm Keeneland turf on October 4.
“We finally caught a firm turf at Kentucky Downs and she just powered home,” Ward said. “It was an extremely impressive maiden win, and her works since have been eye-openers. I’m looking for a big race with her.”
A Kentucky homebred, Royal Approval is out of the Malibu Moon mare Touch the Moon and comes from the same family as 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride from post 7.
Trainer Christophe Clement notched the first Matron contested on turf with Robert Evans’ Lonely Road and will send out Magisterium who makes her North American debut for Madaket Stables.
The bay daughter of Elzaam has never been worse than second or beaten more than a neck in four starts and boasts two victories at seven furlongs in her native Great Britain.
Clement said his filly prefers firm footing and will be keeping a close eye on Sunday’s weather forecast, which as of Thursday afternoon calls for a 50% chance of rain showers for the Elmont area.
“I’m keeping all my options open,” Clement said. “I’ll take a look on Sunday morning and make a decision. But she’s been training well.”
Jockey Joel Rosario will ride from post 8.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will debut Union Gables on the turf after a distant third-place finish in an off-the-turf edition of the P.G. Johnson on September 3 at Saratoga. Owned by GMP Racing and F Bellavia, the daughter of Speightstown was beaten 8 ¾ lengths to Simply Ravishing last out, following a victory on debut at Saratoga going 5 ½ furlongs over the main track on August 9.
Pletcher is a two-time winner of the Matron having scored with Marylebone (2003) and Kauai Katie (2012).
Luis Saez, who won the 2016 Matron with Arella Rockstar, will pilot Union Gables from post 3.
Rounding out the field are Rossa Veloce [post 1, Jose Ortiz], Fabricate [post 2, Manny Franco], Amalfi Princess [post 4, Junior Alvarado], Bravo Regina [post 5, Dylan Davis], and Niente [post 6, Jose Lezcano].
The Matron is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program, which offers a first post of 12:50 p.m. Eastern. America’s Day at the Races will present daily television coverage of the 27-day fall meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete America’s Day at the Races broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.