Filly & Mare Turf Preview (9/25): Key Preps Loom

The final, and perhaps key, North American preps for the Filly & Mare Turf will be held the weekends of Sept. 28 and Oct. 5.

At Belmont Park Sept. 28, Juddmonte Farm's Banks Hill, winner of the 2001 Filly & Mare Turf at Belmont, is expected for the grade I Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. Last year, Banks Hill, trained by Andre Fabre, didn't have a prep race in the United States before the Breeders' Cup.

Edouard de Rothschild's England's Legend finished second in last year's Flower Bowl and was the favorite in the Filly & Mare Turf. She is among the expected starters for the Flower Bowl as released by the New York Racing Association.

Other probable starters are Kazzia and Starine. Tarfshi and Turtle Bow are listed as possible starters.

Green Hills Farm's Voodoo Dancer is among the Flower Bowl invitees, but she could end up competing in Keeneland's grade II WinStar Galaxy Stakes at 1 3/16 miles on the grass on Oct. 4, opening day of the meet.

Janis Whitham's Affluent, trained by Ron McAnally, is expected to ship to Kentucky Oct. 1 and then race in the WinStar Galaxy. Last fall, Affluent, then a 3-year-old, won the grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on the grass at Keeneland but passed up the Filly & Mare Turf.

Affluent, by Affirmed has won seven of 17 career starts on the turf and dirt. After six consecutive dirt starts, McAnally returned her to the turf July 27 in the grade I Ramona Handicap at Del Mar, and the filly responded with a sharp neck victory over Golden Apples.

In four grass starts, Affluent has won three times and finished second once. In the most recent World Thoroughbred Rankings, Affluent is ranked eighth for the Filly & Mare Turf, and ninth for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Meanwhile, the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust's Astra, 11 for 16 in her career and at the top of the World Thoroughbred Rankings for the Filly & Mare Turf, has been retired because of a respiratory infection, trainer Laura de Seroux said. Astra finished second in the grade I Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Aug. 17 in what would be her final start.

In California, the grade I Yellow Ribbon Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on the grass is scheduled for Oct. 5. At Woodbine, the grade I (Canadian) E.P. Taylor Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on the turf is scheduled for Sept. 29.