Updated on 09/15/2011 1:20PM

Banks Hill leaves the competition far behind


ELMONT, N Y - Banks Hill left little doubt as to the identity of the best female grass horse in the world when she drew off to a sensational 5 1/2-length victory over Spook Express in the Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday at Belmont Park.

The win gave owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms and jockey Olivier Peslier their first Breeders' Cup victories.

Lailani and England's Legend, co-favored at 5-2 after finishing first and second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Handicap here three weeks ago, finished eighth and 11th, respectively.

Banks Hill benefited from a textbook ride by Peslier, whose best previous Breeders' Cup finish was a second with Freedom Cry in the 1995 Turf. Banks Hill, an English-bred daughter of Danehill and Juddmonte homebred Hasili, stalked the early pace of England's Legend while tucked in along the hedge. Turning for home England's Legend came out a bit wide and Peslier seized the moment, driving Banks Hill to the lead from the inside and quickly drawing off to a five-length advantage which she maintained under steady urging to the wire.

Spook Express, supplemented into the race for a $200,000 fee, raced a bit closer to the pace than usual, swung wide into the stretch and came on with good energy in the final furlong to outfinish Spring Oak by 1 3/4 lengths for second. They were followed by Solvig, Volga, Kalypso Katie, Crystal Music, Lailani, Chaste, Starine, England's Legend, and Mot Juste.

Banks Hill paid $14 after covering 1 1/4 miles over a firm course in 2:00.36. Her final clocking was automatically a stakes record because this was the first time the Filly and Mare Turf has been run at the distance in its brief three-year history. Banks Hill earned a winner's share of $722,800 of a record $1,273,240 purse.

"After winning a Group 1 at Ascot it was just a matter of getting the distance today," said trainer Andre Fabre, who registered his third Breeders' Cup victory and first since Arcangues shocked the world winning the 1993 Classic. "In my heart I believe she should win the Eclipse Award."

"My filly had a good turn of foot, the leader didn't turn well into the stretch, and when I asked her she just kept going," said Peslier. "Finally winning a Breeders' Cup is a great thrill. It's the greatest race in the world."

Teddy Beckett, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms, speaking on behalf of owner Khalid Abdullah, who won his first Breeders' Cup race but was not in attendance, said "to see her destroy the field like she did was superb."

"Winning the Breeders' Cup has always been a major goal for Juddmonte, and this victory means a lot to the farm both in Europe and Kentucky," said Beckett. "To both own and breed a Breeders' Cup winner is the Holy Grail."

Jerry Bailey, who rode Lailani, said the course was much firmer than when she won the Flower Bowl.

"The course probably wasn't to her liking," said Bailey. "By the time I got to the far turn I was empty."

for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf chart.*

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