Martin Schwartz' 5-year-old mare Off Limits has made a marked improvement in 2017, and entering Sunday's G1 Matriarch she had won four of her five starts on the year, including a pair of Grade 3 stakes in New York. Trainer Chad Brown shipped her west to Del Mar for a major step up in company, and the daughter of Mastercraftsman responded emphatically.
Joel Rosario was completely relaxed aboard Off Limits at the rear of the field all the way down the backstretch, and then found a seam at the rail to reach striking range at the top of the stretch. The mare, off at odds of 9-2, had to bull her way between rivals in mid-stretch, but she then closed furiously to get in front of Hawksmoor by a length at the wire. Off Limits completed one mile on the firm turf in a stakes record 1:34.37. Favored at 5-2, Cambodia was only able to gain fourth.
Miss Julia Star demanded the lead out of the starting gate, scooting away to set early fractions of :23.40 and :47.09. She had a half-length advantage over a very attentive Hawksmoor in second, and it got crowded for third position with Belvoir Bay at the rail, Kitten's Roar on the outside and favorite Cambodia milling between horses. About 12 lengths off the pacesetters, Off Limits relaxed completely under Rosario.
Rounding the far turn, Hawksmoor took over from Miss Julia Star and appeared to have gotten the jump on the rest of the field. Rubilinda was making a rush but got caught wide, and Cambodia was also dealing with a bit of traffic.
Rosario gave Off Limits a textbook-perfect ride up the rail to be just three lengths behind Hawksmoor at the head of the stretch, and after angling off the rail to get around Miss Julia Star, Off Limits hit the accelerator to overwhelm Hawksmoor in the final 100 yards. At the wire, Off Limits was a length in front of Hawksmoor. Insta Erma was up for third, with Cambodia checking in fourth.
Bred in Ireland by the Carlingford Breeding Syndicate, Off Limits was a $30,763 weanlingt at Goffs. She began her career in Ireland, winning a listed stakes, before Schwartz purchased her in early 2016 and had her shipped to the United States. It took her several starts to find her footing in American racing, and Off Limits only managed a second in allowance company before she was put away for the year. Returning in June of 2017, the mare won her first start, and was second in the next. She entered the Matriarch having won her last three starts. Overall, Off Limits boasts a record of 7-2-1 from 17 starts, with earnings of over $600,000.
JOEL ROSARIO (Off Limits, winner) – “Perfect trip; just what we wanted. She's got that great turn of foot. That's what makes her so special. And she wants to win. When she sees horses in front of her, she wants to go get them. I love it here (at Del Mar). I've got lots of good memories from my years here (steadily between 2008 and 2011). I won a lot of good races. It's a place where I feel comfortable.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX (Hawksmoor, second) – “We had a good trip and she ran well. When I asked her, she gave it to me. We just couldn't match the winner today.”
COREY NAKATANI (Insta Erma, third) – “I got her to relax and she was in a nice rhythm. She finished well and ran a big race. She's a good one.”
DRAYDEN VAN DYKE (Cambodia, fourth) – “We were in tight on that first turn. They had me surrounded. But she ran well today; gave it a good try.”
JOSE HERNANDEZ, assistant to Chad Brown (Off Limits, winner) – “I think it was the right place to be coming from off the pace with this mare. The other (Brown) filly (Rubilinda), I liked very well, but maybe she didn't handle the track as well. They're both very nice horses. I talked to (Chad) Brown, but he just said, 'Get over there and win the race,' that's it. He talked to the jockey before the race. I've saddled many (stakes winners) for Mr. Brown. I won the Arlington Million, twice, and the Beverly D.”
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