05/16/2002 11:00PM

Banks Hill scares them off


Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Banks Hill has frightened away most of the opposition from her eagerly anticipated 4-year-old debut in the Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp on Sunday.

She will face just three rivals in the Group 1 race, which will be run at 1 1 /8 miles and 55 yards. Among the defectors in recent days has been Rebelline, the filly who ended Johannesburg's unbeaten record in the Gladness Stakes. The three who will take up the cudgel against Banks Hill are Best of the Bests, Execute, and Poussin.

Best of the Bests is returning from another so-so season for Godolphin on the Nad Al Sheba dirt, where he won the Group 3 Maktoum Challenge-Round 2 but was up the track for the second year running in the Dubai World Cup. Even his best turf form, a close third to Giant's Causeway in the Irish Champion Stakes two years ago, will not be enough to defeat Banks Hill.

Execute poses a more serious threat. He was just half a length behind an excellent French filly, Aquarelliste, in the Group 1 Prix Ganay three weeks ago. He had previously beaten Poussin by a length into third place in the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt.

On the same card, Ana Marie, Bright Sky, and Mariensky, the first three in the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux, renew their rivalry in the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary, the ultimate prep for the French Oaks on June 9.

o On Monday at Saint-Cloud, Califet, sharp winner of the Group 3 Prix d'Hedouville on April 18, should once again take the measure of Ange Gabriel in the 1 1/2-mile Group 2 Prix Jean de Chaudenay.