Her name matches that of both a city and county in California, yet she was bred in Kentucky and competed in Europe before making her way to the Golden State. As it turned out, she would win or place in races in all three locations as well as in other areas.
Descending from the legendary Nasrullah, Ventura had a sire in Chester House, a multiple stakes winner in Europe. Ventura shared her father's success on that continent, getting a stakes win along with some handicap wins. She was a consistent filly, too. The only time she finished off the board during her time overseas (and as it turned out, her career) was in her debut as a two-year-old. Clearly, Ventura had class.
Her first stakes win ended up being her European finale. Making her North American debut for trainer Bobby Frankel and owner/breeder Juddmonte Farms at Santa Anita in March 2008, Ventura conquered the hillside turf course in her first try. It was her first time teaming with jockey Garrett Gomez, who would become the only jockey assigned to her on a race day from that point forward. The win set them up for a fine turf campaign across the United States, which saw victories in the Grade II Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland and the Grade I Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park. Ready to compete every time she stepped on the grass, Ventura also scored placings in multiple graded events, including a second in the Grade I Woodbine Mile in a fine showing against males.
As for Ventura's season finale, it came on the biggest stage available that fall, for she mowed down the opposition in a terrific come-from-behind performance to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Santa Anita's synthetic surface. Nearly one year had elapsed between her last race in the United Kingdom and her triumph in the Breeders' Cup, and it was clear that Ventura had not lost any of the class she put on display at three.
Nor did it diminish at four. The dark bay with a long white blaze on her face had a flashy closing kick, which was put to good use in the Grade I Santa Monica Stakes at January. Fans that saw her at racetracks for the rest of the year saw Ventura turn it up a notch every time she was in the stretch. She may not have won all of her starts, but did not stop trying until the race was over.
Ventura's second season in North America produced three wins and three seconds in six starts. She had good runner up efforts against the boys in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf (which saw her beaten only by future Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti) and Vinery Madison, just missing out on the trophy each time. But she moved up a spot in her return to the Woodbine Mile thanks to a powerful finish that gave her a clear victory. Sadly, it would mark the last time Frankel and Ventura won a race together.
Frankel lived to see his talented filly finish second in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, but he passed only days after the race. Frankel's longtime assistant trainer, Humberto Ascanio, assumed conditioning duties, and he sent Frankel to Hollywood Park for the Grade I Matriarch Stakes. Up closer to the pace than she had been for a while, Ventura had one more victory in store. She was too strong for her rivals that day, taking her last race with authority for Ascanio while also honoring Frankel. Ascanio loved the result, and he was thrilled for his longtime boss. "I wanted this one more--for him," he said after the race.
It was a big day for Ascanio, and also for Ventura, who left her stamp on the prestigious race. Her final time of 1:33.58 was the fastest in Matriarch history, and the record still stands.
The Matriarch gave Ventura a record of ten wins, eight seconds and a third in twenty-one starts for earnings north of $2.5 million. Garrett Gomez, a winner of thousands of races, knew he was privileged to have ridden Ventura. "She's just been amazing," he said, adding that she had "the most explosive turn of foot I have ever seen."
Ventura never won an Eclipse Award, but she was a champion on the racetrack. Amazing, consistent, strong, and a special all-around talent, Ventura gave Frankel much to be happy and proud about in the legendary trainer's final years. She was one of those horses that jockeys, owners and trainers dream about. The level of competitiveness she displayed, her ability to finish races, and that drive to win are all traits of a great racehorse. And it is impossible to not call Ventura great.
Ventura's name might have caused one to think of the laid-back attitude California is known for. But the reality is that it belied a strength that made her one of Southern California's finest fillies at the close of the 2000s.
"I wanted this one..." Shinar, Jack. "Ventura Fulfills Frankel's Wish in Matriarch," Bloodhorse.com, November 28, 2009. https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/145135/ventura-fulfills-frankels-wish-in-matriarch
"She's just been amazing..." Ibid.
"the most explosive turn..." Ibid.