Betting Intelligence: Dea Matrona vs. Dazzling Star in Natalma Stakes

September 16th, 2023

In an alternate universe, Dea Matrona might have been the Godolphin shipper in Saturday’s Natalma (G1) at Woodbine, rather than the one making her North American debut for Chad Brown. 

The French recruit is not only out of a Godolphin castoff; her dam, Everglades, was actually sold when she was carrying Dea Matrona. The mare had produced nothing of note by the time she was offered, in foal to prolific sire Dark Angel, at the Goffs November Breeding Stock Sale in 2020, and she brought just about $41,398. Thus Ecurie de Cachene came into the possession of a well-bred broodmare, who was about to deliver her best foal so far.

Although Everglades had failed to distinguish herself on the racecourse, as the winner of two races in the French provinces, and at stud, the Darley homebred boasts quite a pedigree. By Teofilo, an unbeaten champion son of Galileo, Everglades is a half-sister to Khawlah, who defeated males in the 2011 UAE Derby (G2). Khawlah would reach even greater heights as a broodmare, producing Godolphin’s 2018 Epsom Derby (G1) hero Masar.

Everglades and Khawlah are direct matrilineal descendants of the blue hen Urban Sea, dam of the aforementioned Galileo as well as all-time great Sea the Stars. Urban Sea’s daughter Melikah, who placed in both the Epsom and Irish Oaks (G1) in 2000, appears as the granddam of Everglades. Hence Everglades is inbred to Urban Sea, an example of the “Rasmussen Factor” of doubling up on a superior female. 

This is the family of a few Godolphin Group 2 winners, including Masterstroke, third in the 2012 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1); Everglades’s half-brother, Vancouverite, who was runner-up in the 2014 Jebel Hatta (G1); and Creative Flair, whose stateside gambits weren’t successful for Charlie Appleby. That Godolphin trainer also had Masterstroke and Vancouverite, for a more limited portion of their careers, so he’s quite familiar with the tribe even beyond Masar. 

It would be ironic if their relative Dea Matrona upstages Appleby’s contender, Dazzling Star, in the Natalma. But Dea Matrona has a better chance than her 10-1 morning line implies. 

As an early foal born Jan. 29, 2021, Dea Matrona showed precocity for up-and-coming horseman Christopher Head. The son of legendary jockey-turned-trainer Freddie Head already has high-class performers to his credit, most notably Blue Rose Cen, Big Rock, and star juvenile filly Ramatuelle.

Dea Matrona’s form can’t compare to Ramatuelle, but her two races in France do give a sense that there’s more to come. She was sending the right signals in her homework to go off as the favorite, against a few other nicely-bred types, in a May 23 newcomers’ event at Saint-Cloud. 

Setting the pace in the about six-furlong affair, around a left-handed turn, Dea Matrona weakened in the final furlong and checked in fifth to Peter Brant’s blueblood Louise Procter. The winner’s time on the good-to-soft going was faster than the companion race for males (1:15.95 versus 1:16.62), won by stablemate Havana Cigar, who has since placed in a pair of Group 3s. The montage below features Havana Cigar’s replay first, then Louise Procter’s race.

Dea Matrona justified favoritism next time June 12 at Strasbourg. The step up to seven furlongs on good ground, combined with more patient tactics, produced a comfortable victory. She cruised into contention, appeared full of run on the right-handed turn for home, and drew off readily by three lengths in 1:25.83. According to the tracking on, Dea Matrona quickened her penultimate furlong in :11.64, and the race was in the bag for much of her final furlong in :12.17. 

Off that performance, Dea Matrona was whisked away stateside, and she now sports the silks of Pick Five Racing. It’s significant that she was among Brown’s Natalma nominees, and arguably a clue that she’s his only runner at Woodbine overall on the big day. 

Obviously this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) is a deeper test than she ever had at home, and post 13 doesn’t help. Yet she might not be quite as wide if a couple of the cross-entered fillies opt for the Summer (G1), and Joel Rosario might just anchor her. In any event, Dea Matrona is intriguing at what could be a pretty enticing price for an import with her connections.

Sire Dark Angel has been known to get big winners on this side of the pond too, including Brown’s multiple Grade 1 hero Raging Bull and Appleby-trained siblings Althiqa and Mysterious Night, last year’s Summer romper.

But what about Appleby’s Dazzling Star, the 3-1 favorite on the morning line? As my colleague Vance Hanson noted in this week’s Jury, her latest fourth in the Princess Margaret (G3) doesn’t exactly leap off the page. The trifecta was filled with useful fillies – Sacred Angel, Pretty Crystal, and Symbology – who have competed respectably in ensuing Group races, without necessarily boosting the form.

My biggest question mark, though, is that Dazzling Star comes in with a lighter resume than Appleby’s past Natalma winners. Both La Pelosa (2018) and Wild Beauty (2021) had the benefit of greater racing experience, and more tellingly, at least a couple of seven-furlong races under their belt. They were taking a more gradual climb to the Natalma, as opposed to Dazzling Star’s leapfrogging straight from six furlongs to a mile.

That might not be as much of a concern if she had the profile of a juvenile looking for added ground. Dazzling Star’s impressive maiden score over Newmarket’s July Course, however, was apropos for a filly by outstanding sprinter Blue Point. In the Princess Margaret, over a stiffer six furlongs at Ascot, Dazzling Star actually lost ground late. 

To be fair, Dazzling Star’s dam, Group 2-placed stakes winner Dancing Sands, stayed a mile. She’s produced a recent 1 1/4-mile stakes victor in Bold Act, although I’m inclined to credit his sire, New Approach, for the stamina infusion. 

In the circumstances of an abrupt stretch-out, at what’s likely to be a skimpy price, it’s worth treating Dazzling Star with a bit more caution, and not automatically lumping her in with Appleby’s past graduates. The filly who left the Godolphin fold in embryo, Dea Matrona, could end up being one that got away.