09/26/2002 12:00AM

Banks Hill is special treat


ELMONT, N.Y. - New Yorkers, accustomed to seeing outstanding horses in every division during Belmont Park's fall championship meeting, may be in for a special treat on Saturday. France's Banks Hill, spectacular winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf last season and widely regarded as one of the world's best horses in training, is on hand and ready for Saturday's $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational. She could scratch from the race if the turf comes up soft.

Bred and owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm, Banks Hill was 3 when she flew here last fall to thrash older mares in the Breeders' Cup, winning by more than five lengths. Mike Lakow, racing secretary and handicapper for the New York Racing Association, calls it the most impressive race he saw last year.

"She is a better racehorse this season," trainer Andre Fabre said quietly from his yard in Chantilly. "She put on weight and developed physically. She has been running against colts all season and her races have been strong, particularly the one at Longchamp earlier this month when she was beaten half a length by the brilliant Rock of Gibraltar."

As good as she is, however, Banks Hill may have her work cut out for her in the 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl Invitational on the turf. Another top European filly who will prep for the Breeders' Cup in Saturday's race is Kazzia from Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable. How much quality does she have? The 3-year-old Kazzia scored a classic double, winning the one-mile 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the 1 1/2-mile Oaks at Epsom.

The home forces appear headed by England's Legend, who was just beaten in last year's Flower Bowl Invitational. She has speed and has successfully carried it 1 1/4 miles, but she couldn't quite last in the Beverly D. at Arlington Park last month.

Belmont Park's superb Saturday program features the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup. Any time there is that much money at stake you can be sure Bobby Frankel's powerful stable will be bidding. Frankel, on pace to record earnings this year, leads with two aces. One is Lido Palace, a winner of almost $2.2 million who captured the Woodward Stakes and appears to be in top form.

The other is Milwaukee Brew, a winner of $1.6 million who won the Santa Anita Handicap and the Californian at Hollywood.

Subsequent appearances weren't as effective but he was freshened briefly and has responded nicely in his training.

"You've got to respect Repent off his race in the Travers," Frankel said. "But we're running two good horses. They are consistent and we expect them to run well. The weather is the unknown factor. Our horses don't have much experience with off tracks."