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
“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.”