Juddmonte Farms' Banks Hill made only one of her seven 2001 starts in the United States, but she made it count in a big way. She went one-for-one with a stunning victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) against many of the top horses in her division.
The victory was especially sweet for Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, an international organization that had failed to win a Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships event in 29 starts through 2000. In keeping with Juddmonte tradition, Banks Hill, bred in Great Britain, is a homebred.
Trained by Andre Fabre, Banks Hill (Danehill--Hasili, by Kahyasi) won her only start as a 2-year-old in 2000. She returned to the races in late April of her 3-year-old season with a fourth-place finish in the Prix d'Angerville Stakes in France.
Subsequent starts would earn Banks Hill the Cartier Award as champion 3-year-old filly in Europe for 2001. In May, she finished second to Rose Gypsy in the group I Dubai Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French One Thousand Guineas), and followed up with a victory in the group II Prix de Sandringham in France in early June. Both of those stakes are for 3-year-old fillies.
Later that month, she stamped herself as a contender for divisional honors in Europe with a win in the group I Coronation Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Royal Ascot in England.
Next up were two key group I events in France: the Prix Jacques le Marois in August, and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in September. Banks Hill finished second in both events, which were for 3-year-olds and up with no sex restriction. Those races set the plate for her first trip to the U.S. for the Filly & Mare Turf at Belmont Park Oct. 27.
The Filly & Mare Turf lured a field of 12 and, as usual, it was contentious. England's Legend, Lailani, and Starine all drew more play at the betting windows than Banks Hill, who was dismissed as the fourth choice in the wagering. She turned the tables on her highly rated foes with flair
Soaring Softly and Perfect Sting won the Filly & Mare Turf in 1999 and 2000, respectively, by three-quarters of length in blanket finishes. The 2001 edition of the race had the potential to produce similar results, but Banks Hill, never worse than fourth while racing along the hedge, scampered away from her foes at the top of the stretch and cruised home to win over Spook Express, who suffered a life-ending injury in her next start in California. Longshot Spring Oak was third in the Filly & Mare Turf.
"She ran against some of the toughest colts in Europe," said Dr. John Chandler, Juddmonte's racing manager in the U.S. "I honestly believe if she had been last at the top of the stretch, she still would have won easily."
Fabre called Banks Hill, who has earned nearly $1.2 million in eight career starts, the best filly he has ever trained. She is expected to return to the races as a 4-year-old this year.
Banks Hill was one of several horses up for Eclipse Awards that made only one start in the U.S. in 2001. The others are Johannesburg, selected top 2-year-old male; Fantastic Light, named turf male; and Sakhee, a finalist for older male.
Juddmonte was a top-three finalist for two Eclipse Awards: as leading owner and as leading breeder. It landed the Eclipse for leading breeder.