Filly & Mare Turf Story (Cont.)
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 12:25 PM
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 12:21 PM
"At the five-eighths pole, she was empty," jockey Jerry Bailey said of Lailani. "The European horses are notorious for running really well their first time in the U.S., and then not being able to do so well the second time."
Edward Dunlop, who trains both Lailani and Mot Juste, said Lailani is worthy of credit for her seven consecutive wins, but he wouldn't make any excuses.
"The winner was very good today," Dunlop said. "We would have never beaten the winner. She was in a different class today."
If there was a knock against Banks Hill going into the Filly & Mare Turf, it was the fact she never had raced beyond a mile. The week before the race, however, there was talk on the Belmont backstretch that Banks Hill was a filly that wanted more ground.
Beckett said that while her sire, Danehill, had speed, he also had stamina, and her female family was known for its staying power.
"She's built like a stayer--at least a mile and a quarter," Beckett said. "She's not a compact sort. She has big range."
Peslier, one of the top riders in France who bagged his first World Thoroughbred Championships win, said he followed the instructions of trainer Andre Fabre, who told him to see what developed in the first three furlongs of the race. As it turned out, Peslier had Banks Hill in the perfect spot. He said he was worried about the tight turns, but the filly proved very handy even though she had to travel a quarter-mile farther than ever before.
Peslier noted the course at Ascot, where Banks Hill won the Coronation Stakes, is more demanding than most in England. He said if a horse can go a mile at Ascot, a mile and a quarter is well within its reach.
Fabre, whose two previous Cup winners were 133-1 Arcangues in the 1993 Classic (gr. I) and favored In the Wings in the 1990 Turf, said Banks Hill probably would stay in training, though a decision would be made later.
"We've had discussions with some breeding people who said she could go farther (than a mile)," Fabre said. "This opens up another gate for us."
In her two starts before the Filly & Mare Turf, Banks Hill proved her mettle with second- and third-place finishes, respectively, in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (Fr-I) and the Prix Jacques le Marois (Fr-I). Those two events were open to 3-year-olds and up with no sex restriction.
"She ran against some of the toughest colts in Europe," said Dr. John Chandler, Juddmonte's racing manager in the U.S. "I think she was pleasantly surprised to see no stud colts in the starting gate. I honestly believe if she had been last at the top of the stretch, she still would have won easily."
The prince, who prefers to be called Mr. Khalid Abdullah, didn't make the trip to New York for the World Thoroughbred Championships. After the race, he donated 20% of Banks Hill's earnings to Keene-land's Red Cross fund.
Juddmonte also had Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Flute in the Distaff (gr. I), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Aptitude in the Classic. Though both were favored, they finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Oddly, regular Juddmonte trainer Bobby Frankel, who entered this year's World Thoroughbred Championships zero-for-36, broke through with a win, but it was with Squirtle Squirt, not a Juddmonte horse, in the Sprint (gr. I). Much of the Southern California-based trainer's success this season has come with Juddmonte homebreds.
"I think both the prince and Bobby have lost their greatest talking points now," Chandler said with a laugh. "The prince is absolutely delighted. When I called him, he said, 'I don't believe in television. Call me and tell me this is really true.' He's absolutely tickled."
Abdullah also spoke to Fabre via telephone. Fabre reported Banks Hill is "the best filly I've ever trained."
Abdullah, a native of Saudi Arabia who heads the London-based international conglomerate Mewared, entered the racing business as an owner and quickly expanded his interests to the yearling sales in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, he purchased farms, along with mares and foals, in Ireland and Kentucky.
Since that time, the broodmare band has swelled to about 250, and his racehorses number roughly 150 a year between the U.S. and Europe. Over the years, Abdullah has shown a knack for establishing his own breeding line, and takes particular joy when his homebred fillies have successful racing and broodmare careers.
Now, after a 17-year wait, he can claim ownership of a World Thoroughbred Championships winner produced by a colt and filly he bred himself. It really doesn't get much better than that.
"That's why it's so special," said Beckett. "It's the feeling you get after having raised horses from both sides of the family tree for years. They're like your own children."
Though Banks Hill is expected to race next year, one thing seems a certainty. The name of the filly that gave Abdullah a most coveted trophy for his case eventually will appear on a page in Juddmonte's broodmares book, and the cycle will begin anew.
Quality and patience may be rewarded yet again.
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