02/19/2002 12:00AM

Banks Hill sealed deal with romp


Any doubts about who was the best filly and mare grass horse in the world in 2001 were erased down the long Belmont Park stretch on Breeders' Cup Day, when Banks Hill ran away from a star-studded field in the Filly and Mare Turf. Her 5 1/2-length triumph was easily the most one-sided victory on Breeders' Cup Day, and not only clinched the 3-year-old Banks Hill an Eclipse Award but gave owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms its first Breeders' Cup win.

The Breeders' Cup victory concluded an outstanding campaign for Banks Hill, who won three of seven starts and earned $1,184,000. In addition to the Filly and Mare Turf, Banks Hill, an English-bred daughter of Danehill and Hasili, won the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Ascot and the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly, and was second in two other Group 1 races in France.

Yet despite her record in Europe, Banks Hill came to the Breeders' Cup somewhat overshadowed by Lailani, England's Legend, and Starine. The main question mark for Banks Hill was whether she could get the 1 1/4 miles of the Filly and Mare Turf after having run a mile in all six of her previous races.

But trainer Andre Fabre, who had won two previous Breeders' Cups races, including the 1993 Classic with longshot Arcangues, never wavered in his confidence that his filly would stay the distance.

"Andre called her the best filly he's ever trained and wasn't at all concerned about the distance," said Dr. John Chandler, racing manager for Juddmonte, who accepted Banks Hill's award on behalf of Juddmonte owner Khalid Abdullah at Monday night's Eclipse Award ceremonies. "[Jockey Olivier Peslier] rode her arrogantly and with complete confidence when she won at Ascot. And in her two starts prior to the Breeders' Cup she'd been racing against 3- and 4-year-old colts. On Breeders' Cup Day she must have been thinking, 'What are all us girls doing here,' and wondering where all the fellas were."

Chandler said Banks Hill recently returned to training in Newmarket in preparation for her 4-year-old campaign.

"We hope she'll see you all again in Chicago," said Chandler, referring to the 2002 Breeders' Cup, to be run at Arlington Park.