Judging by the weather forecast, it should be cool for the Filly & Mare Turf, and the course should be firm. Interesting, because only three of the expected starters--Kalypso Katie, Solvig, and Spook Express--raced on firm turf in their most recent starts.
In its first two runnings, the Filly & Mare Turf was run on firm ground, and it was won from off the pace. But it also was run at 1 3/8 miles, or an eighth of a mile shorter than this year. With the absence of a lot of early speed, at least on the paper, the leader or those in close pursuit may hold an advantage.
The Christophe Clement-trained England's Legend, no worse than second in any part of the race in her last four starts, looks like the front-runner, though Mot Juste, trained by Edward Dunlop, has shown early foot in many of her races in Great Britain this year. Kalypso Katie, trained by Neil Drysdale, figures to be close to the pace along with the Dunlop-trained Lailani, the probable favorite.
The deep closers, if you want to call them that, are Spook Express and Solvig, who finished one-two in the WinStar Galaxy Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 5. They rallied from ninth and eighth, respectively, off three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.92 in the 1 3/16-mile race. A lively pace would help their chances, and Spook Express does own a third-place finish at the distance on the grass at Belmont Park.
Diana Handicap winner Starine, trained by Bobby Frankel, figures to be in striking distance given her most recent effort, a third-place finish behind Lailani and England's Legend in the Flower Bowl Handicap. Frankel said the decision to run her in that race was "last-minute," and that he has trained Starine up to the Filly & Mare Turf in a manner similar to her preparation for the Diana.
Chaste, trained in New York by Scotty Schulhofer, finished fourth in Flower Bowl but never was too far back.
In its first two editions, the Filly & Mare Turf was won by U.S.-based fillies Soaring Softly and Perfect Sting. Three fillies--Bank's Hill, Crystal Music, Mot Juste--will make their North American debuts in the Filly & Mare Turf. Volga and Spring Oak made their North American debuts Sept. 30 with strong efforts in the E.P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.