Carotene claimed two Sovereign Awards last year - as the leading 3-year-old filly and as the top grass horse.
Her breeder and owner, Kinghaven Farms, and her trainer, Roger Attfield, won awards as the best in those fields.
Last year's laurels will mean little when the gates open tonight for the 1 3/16-mile, Grade II Matchmaker on Atlantic City's turf course. But Carotene, who will be ridden by Jose Santos, could well get the job done.
Carotene, the Matchmaker's co-second highweight, at 118 pounds, with Perfect Point and Twixtslusive, appears to be rounding into top form again. Last month, she got her first victory of the year when she won Woodbine Race Course's Nassau Stakes.
The Matchmaker's highweight, Solva, at 123 pounds, was scratched yesterday. She was not shipped from California after drawing the outside gate for the Matchmaker. Laughter, the 15th horse to be entered, drew into the race with Solva's scratch and will be in the outside gate.
In addition to the $100,000 purse, the Matchmaker awards breeding seasons to the first three finishers. The owners of the first three will select, according to the order of finish, seasons with Gate Dancer, Sportin' Life or Five Star Flight.
The Matchmaker was carded as the track's fourth race tonight, and it will have a post time of approximately 8:30 p.m.
Sharing the 120-pound highweight assignment in a strong field are Steal A Kiss and Cadabra Abra, both of whom come into the Matchmaker after victories in graded grass stakes.
Steal A Kiss, who is based at Belmont Park in New York with trainer John Veitch, won the Belmont's Grade II Sheepshead Bay Handicap on June 27. Cadabra Abra, trained at Monmouth Park by Dan Perlsweig, scored an upset victory in Garden State Park's closing-night Vineland Handicap on June 13.
Steal A Kiss ran well on soft ground at Belmont. But both Carotene and Cadabra Abra can handle soft or firm footing.
Spruce Fir, the early 4-1 favorite in the Atlantic City betting line, drew onto the rail and will probably set the pace under Craig Perret. The 4-year- old filly won a division of Monmouth's The Very One Stakes but most recently was second to Matchmaker entrant Princely Proof in a Monmouth turf allowance.
Princely Proof, bred and owned by Sharon Hild and trained by her husband, Glenn Hild, will break from the 11th gate with William Gavidia. She won the other division of The Very One Stakes.
While Cadabra Abra won the Grade III Vineland after remaining close to the pace, Carotene saves her best for the stretch drive. "She runs the last part," said Ian Black, Kinghaven's farm manager.
Carotene won her only start at 2 and gained her divisional title last year with victories over males in the Breeders Stakes, a Grade I race, and the Toronto Cup Handicap, a Grade III race.
She finished third in the Grade I Yellow Ribbons Handicap at Santa Anita Park in November, beaten by only a half length for all the money by Bonne Ille.
Her 1987 season did not begin well, though. She made her seasonal debut in Keeneland Race Course's Bewitch Stakes, where she was eased after losing touch with the pace in a moderate field.
After a second-place finish in Canada, she was shipped to Belmont, where she checked in seventh behind Anka Germania in the New York Handicap, although she was beaten by only 3 1/2 lengths.
Black said the 4-year-old filly was then shipped home to Canada for the King Edward and the Nassau so that she could regain her confidence.
Perlsweig said that Cadabra Abra should like the Matchmaker's distance and that she probably would not be hurt by soft footing.
The filly's owner, Jerry Pinkley of Woodward, Okla., bought her privately after she was sold for $35,000 as a yearling. She won Belmont's Miss Grillo Stakes at 2 but banged up an ankle on a frozen track at the Meadowlands Racetrack later that year.
Perlsweig gave her most of last year off and brought her back with a win at the East Rutherford track in October. She ran well in Florida before taking the Vineland at 14-1.
Philadelphia Park officials announced yesterday that the Bucks County track's weekday first post time will return to 1 p.m., starting Tuesday. Today's card and Friday's program will have a 2:30 first post. The Saturday and Sunday programs will continue with a 1 p.m. post.