Filly & Mare Turf Preview: Turf, Not Chalk

One favorite has won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) since the race was inaugurated in 1999, but even then, Soaring Softly was the 7-2 choice in a race with two other fillies at 4-1.

This year's event is expected to lure a full field of 14, and once again, you can erase the notion of heavy chalk.

The condition of the Arlington Park turf course Oct. 26 could play a role in how bettors assess each starter's chances. Juddmonte Farms' Banks Hill, for example, prefers firm ground, while some of the other Europeans wouldn't mind a course with more give to it.

Though Banks Hill won last year's Filly & Mare Turf by 5 1/2 lengths as the 6-1 fourth choice in a 12-horse field, it's doubtful she'll be heavily favored. She has won only one of five starts in 2002, and last time out fell four lengths short of Gary Tanaka's Golden Apples in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park.

The fact that Banks Hill encountered traffic for an eighth of a mile in that race didn't go unnoticed. But with Golden Apples on a roll, Godolphin Stable's Kazzia having won her U.S. debut in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT), and some top Europeans poised to enter the fray, the 1 1/4-mile Filly & Mare Turf looms one of the more contentious races on the program.

Golden Apples, trained by Ben Cecil, passed on the Filly & Mare Turf as a 3-year-old last year and instead won the Las Palmas Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita a week later. This year, with three wins and two seconds in five starts, Golden Apples appears well spotted for a few reasons. She won the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington in August, so she has a race over the course. Also, she rallied nicely in her last two wins even though she was much closer to the pace than usual. She has only one win in five starts on "off" turf, but finished second twice and third twice.

Golden Apples, who had "a very nice move" on the Santa Anita turf course Oct. 13, according to Cecil, is scheduled to ship to Illinois Oct. 22 or Oct. 23. Patrick Valenzuela, who rode the Irish-bred in the Beverly D. and the Yellow Ribbon, said Golden Apples is in super form.

"She was good in the Beverly D.," Valenzuela said. "(In the Yellow Ribbon), she was even better. We're two-for-two, and we'll be three-for-three after the Breeders' Cup."

Of the Europeans that haven't started in the U.S., Moyglare Stud Farm's Irresistible Jewel, and Islington, owned by executors of the late Lord Weintock, were pre-entered and figure to draw attention. Interestingly, most of the U.S.-based fillies and mares have started overseas.

Fox Ridge Farm's Riskaverse, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland on Oct. 12 for trainer Patrick Kelly, was on the fence for the Filly & Mare Turf but was pre-entered Oct. 15. The connections of the 3-year-old filly will make the ultimate decision perhaps at the time of entry on Oct. 23