Lots to ‘Like’ about Matz-trained Filly’s Win in Marshua’s River
Hard Not to Like hardly looked like a horse that hadn’t run in eight months when she bravely slipped through a small opening along the inside rail in deep stretch and courageously fought her way to victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Marshua’s River (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Unraced since suffering a knee chip in last May’s Kentucky Oaks (G1), the daughter of Hard Spun demonstrated an abundance of class, talent and fitness while outgaming Channel Lady nearing the wire to score by a half-length under jockey Joe Rocco Jr. in the turf stakes for fillies and mares.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if Joe was going to get through there. She has that will to win,” trainer Michael Matz said. “We’ve had plenty of works in her, but you never know. You’ve got to give credit to the horse.”
Hard Not to Like, a Grade 1 stakes-place filly last year, turned in a most impressive performance, but Matz certainly had the 7-1 fifth choice ready to run a big race.
“She’s a delight to train. She’s really a nice horse to train. She’s likes to train. She does everything the way you’d like,” said Matz, who took over the filly’s training after she recovered from surgery to remove the knee chip. She trains…like a stakes winner.”
Hard Not to Like raced in third behind a free-running pacesetter Frontside and Channel Lady along the backstretch and advanced on the leaders on the turn into the stretch. Rocco dropped inside of horses in the stretch, and the Ontario-bred filly responded with a strong inside stretch run.
“It worked out pretty good. She didn’t break as sharp as I thought she would. I thought she’d be laying second from the paper, but it worked out well,” Rocco said.
Garland E. Williamson’s homebred ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:41.70, while earning $60,000. Channel Lady, the 5-2 second choice ridden by Javier Castellano, finished 2 ½ lengths clear of 2-1 favorite Leading Astray, who lacked room into the stretch before rallying strongly under Jose Lezcano to get third.
Matz doesn’t have a schedule planned for Hard Not to Like.
"We’d like to keep her for the rest of the year,” he said. “We’ll see if we can find something down here, maybe we can do so something towards the end of the meet.”