Filly & Mare Turf Preview: Wide-Open Spaces

View a list of Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf pre-entries . . .

In the dark, primitive days before the Breeders' Cup first ran a filly and mare turf race last year, classy ladies such as Flawlessly and Memories of Silver were forced to step up to 12 furlongs and do battle with the boys. And many, such as Possibly Perfect, opted out entirely. Looking over the field of potential starters for the second running of this long overdue classification, it's unthinkable that so many fine contestants would have had nowhere to run on "racing's biggest day."

But thankfully, wiser minds prevailed, and this year's 11-furlong edition of the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) figures to be as wide-open as a St. Louis Rams receiver streaking downfield. The favorite-in-waiting, Stronach Stables' Perfect Sting, was sixth in this clash a year ago, then reeled off four straight graded stakes wins in her 4-year-old campaign, including the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT), the New York Handicap (gr. IIT), and the Diana Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. She came back to earth, however, in the WinStar Galaxy (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland Oct. 13 when her patented late charge failed to take the measure of Tout Charmant.

The Galaxy victor is one of two likely to go postward for Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable. Tout Charmant's upfront running style complements the McNairs' Caffe Latte, who bested Tout Charmant in the grade I Ramona at Del Mar in September. Like Perfect Sting, Caffe Latte enjoys cruising near the rear of the pack until entering the passing lane during crunch time.

That trio likely will be chasing Marty and Pam Wygod's Tranquility Lake, who, like time and tide, waits for nobody. The 5-year-old daughter of Rahy has annexed a slew of graded stakes since jockey Eddie Delahoussaye and trainer Julio Canani figured our her running style a year ago. She wants the lead and she wants it now, and is perfect in three 2000 starts, including a daylight mashing of the Yellow Ribbon (gr. IT) field at Santa Anita in October.

Grass specialist Bobby Frankel is bound to train his first Breeders' Cup winner soon, and has a round in his holster for this affair. Juddmonte's Spanish Fern took runner-up honors in the Yellow Ribbon, and shows only a victory in the Santa Ana (gr. IIT) in March for the year. But she's competed against monsters like Riboletta and Perfect Sting for most of this campaign and could be dangerous. Frankel is armed and always dangerous.

Another turf conditioner to be closely followed is Bill Mott, who will send forward Snow Polina. Overlook them at your own risk. The 5-year-old Trempolino chestnut shocked the Beverly D. (gr. IT) gathering at Arlington in August with a huge score, and came back to run second at Belmont in the Flower Bowl (gr. IT). Also this year, she proved best in the grade II Black Helen at Gulfstream and was runner-up to Perfect Sting in July's New York Handicap (gr. IIT) at Belmont.

Speaking of Time, a 4-year-old filly by Gilded Time, is cross-entered in both the Distaff (gr. I) and Filly & Mare Turf. Speaking of Time ran second to Smooth Player in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita after winning a restricted stakes at Del Mar for trainer Barry Abrams.

That Flower Bowl winner was owner/breeder Beverly Steinman's Colstar. The 4-year-old bay filly by Opening Verse out of the Risen Star mare Ascend has won three graded stakes this year under the tutelage of trainer Paul Fout. She has four victories from six 2000 starts, and is going in good form right now.

And if Stronach and trainer Joe Orseno want to reach into their bench, they can produce Collect the Cash, who recently took top honors in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland, and is riding a four-race winning streak.

Is this field deep enough yet? That's only the domestic possibles. The race favorite could quite possibly come from across the Atlantic. That would be Petrushka, an Irish-bred filly trained by Michael Stoute. The 3-year-old has won group I races in England, France, and Ireland this year at 10 and 12 furlongs for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.

The German-bred Catella, by Generous, has hit the board in five group I races in Germany and Italy this year, and is trained by Peter Schiergen for owner Gestut Schlenderhan.

Other visitors include Goldamix and Maltese Superb.

It's shaping up as a terrific battle. What did we ever do without it?

View a list of Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf pre-entries . . .