FILLY & MARE TURF PREVIEW 2003: A European Feel

Trainer Bobby Frankel ran one-two in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Arlington last year and he looks to have a solid chance to do it again at Santa Anita. At Arlington Park, Starine raced home in the trainer's colors to beat Banks Hill by 1 1/2 lengths. Juddmonte Farms' Banks Hill had won the Filly & Mare Turf the previous year for French-based trainer Andre Fabre.

Frankel has three possibles for the Filly & Mare Turf this year in the Juddmonte pair Tates Creek and Heat Haze, as well as Michael Bello's Megahertz. Heat Haze, a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Green Desert, would have been the choice of the trio prior to Sept. 27, but she could finish only third to Irish-trained Dimitrova in Belmont Park's Flower Bowl Handicap (gr. IT) that afternoon. The following day 5-year-old Tates Creek, a homebred by Rahy, scored impres sively in Santa Anita's Yellow Ribbon Invitational (gr. IT) over Sheikh Maktoum's Fabre-trained Musical Chimes. Megahertz hasn't raced since winning in late July at Del Mar.

The Euros look to have a strong say in the Filly & Mare Turf this year although only Banks Hill has clicked for them in the previous four runnings.

Dimitrova, trained at the Curragh by Dermot Weld, is coming off a win in the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, while Godolphin's Mezzo Soprano established her credentials with a narrow win over Yesterday in the Prix Vermeille Fouquet's Barriere (Fr-I). Yesterday came back to finish second in the Prix de l'Opera Casino Barriere d'Enghien les Bains (Fr-I), a neck before Bright Sky in a blanket finish, and both are likely Filly & Mare Turf runners.

Yesterday and Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) second L'Ancresse come from Aidan O'Brien's potent Ballydoyle yard, while Bright Sky is trained in France by Elie Lellouche.

Another Euro with strong claims, and who topped the final Filly & Mare Turf World Thoroughbred Rankings, issued Oct. 6, is Islington, trained at Newmarket by Michael Stoute. Islington finished third in the Filly & Mare Turf last year, beaten less than two lengths. The daughter of Sadler's Wells, owned by the Executors of the late Lord Weinstock, won the Aston Upthorpe Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I) in August and has faced males in her other three starts this year, most recently finishing third, beaten a neck, in the Ireland The Food Island Champion Stakes (Ire-I). She was accorded 120 pounds in the rankings, one pound better than Tates Creek.

Trainer Christophe Clement has Voodoo Dancer, who was ranked at 117 pounds in the World Thoroughbred Rankings, in the Filly & Mare Turf. Voodoo Dancer, owned by Green Hills Farm, upset Heat Haze in Saratoga's Diana Handicap (gr. IT) in July, and a month earlier had lowered the colors of the Megahertz in the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIT). Voodoo Dancer is a daughter of Kingmambo.

European-trained horses have won 18 of the 38 Breeders' Cup Miles and Turfs (both grade I) that have been run, or 47%. Their batting average in the Filly & Mare Turf is 25%, but it looks ready to go to 40% after the 1 1/4 miles on the Santa Anita lawn. For my money, Mezzo Soprano, Musical Chimes, and Islington will fight out the finish.