Wekeela wins Matchmaker to give Brown, Castellano turf stakes sweep

OCEANPORT, N.J. -- You know who could really use a graded-stakes class female turf-route horse? Chad Brown, that's who!

Okay -- maybe not.

Brown just trained the one-three finishers in the Grade 1 Diana, the wonderful Lady Eli and the immensely talented Antonoe. He has three turf fillies pointed to the Grade 1 Beverly D. on Aug. 12 at Arlington. There are plenty more on the bench, too, and on Sunday at Monmouth it was Wekeela who stepped up to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Matchmaker Stakes.

Wekeela got a dream run up the rail under Javier Castellano to win by three-quarters of a length over War Flag, who was closing promisingly three paths off the fence. Left back in third, a length behind War Flag, was the multiple Grade 1-winning miler Miss Temple City, who could not quite finish with the top pair in this 1 1/8-mile race.

Wekeela, owned by Martin Schwartz, was timed in 1:47.97 on firm turf after tracking Judy's Chance's modest pace of 24.61, 48.71, and 1:12.13. She paid $6.60 as the second choice in the wagering behind 4-5 Miss Temple City. Brown and Castellano swept the card's two turf stakes Sunday, winning the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes with Money Multiplier.

In addition to prize money, the Matchmaker offers the connections of the top three finishers a choice of a breeding to one of three stallions that stand at WinStar Farm -- Paynter, Daredevil, and Tourist.

A French-bred 5-year-old by Hurricane Run out of Moonrise, by Grand Lodge, Wekeela was a Group 3 winner and Group 1 placed during 2015 in Europe before being purchased by Schwartz and imported to North America. Highly regarded, she ran in Grade 1s her first two starts of 2016, finishing second to Tepin in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and to Illuminant in the Gamely at Santa Anita. But by midsummer last year Wekeela had lost her form, and she did not race between an eighth-place finish in the 2016 Diana and an allowance-race win on June 11 at Belmont Park.

"Just minor physical issues we gave her time to get over," said Brown. "Mr. Schwartz deserves a lot of credit for being patient. We just waited and waited for the right spot, and this seemed to fit her. Javier rode a great race."

Overmatched Judy's Chance came off the fence turning for home and Castellano wasted no time putting Wekeela into the hole that opened.

"You could have drove a bulldozer through the inside," was how Robby Medina, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey, put it.

Medina had saddled another French import, 4-year-old War Flag, in the Matchmaker and thought the fact that she had to wait behind Miss Temple City and rally three wide while Wekeela scraped paint might have made all the difference.

"I still think she wants to go a little further, too," said Medina. "We just needed to get another race in her since she missed almost a year. Our main goal has been to get her to the Flower Bowl."

Miss Temple City had raced only once this year, finishing 13th in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20. She was stuck inside Judy's Chance going past the stands for the first time and around the first turn, but got outside the pacesetter for a good enough pressing trip and was found slightly wanting late. Miss Temple City became somewhat lit up leaving the walking ring, prancing and dancing her way out onto the racetrack.

"She was very wound up," said trainer Graham Motion." That was a worrisome a little bit. She was in a good spot. I can't offer any excuses. She was awfully good going into this race. We'll definitely go back to a mile, I would say."

As for Wekeela, Brown said just after the race he'd given little thought to where she might next start. Wherever it is, there's a pretty good chance that another Chad Brown-trained filly could offer the sternest competition.