Updated on 09/16/2011 8:31AM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: Affordable quality? Try the mid-section


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Is there a deeper Breeders' Cup race than the Filly and Mare Turf? At the top end sit defending champion Banks Hill, leading American Golden Apples, and the European star Islington. Far below, even the longest shots like Chopinina, Riskaverse, and Zenda can't be dismissed out of hand.

In between is a strong mid-section of contenders, horses like Starine, Owsley, and Dublino, whose odds probably won't reflect their chance of winning the Filly and Mare Turf.

Starine and Banks Hill are trained by Bobby Frankel, and while Banks Hill prepares in California, Frankel has kept tabs on Starine in New York. Frankel also owns Starine, who ran terribly in this race last year and nearly was retired earlier this season. Instead, Frankel brought her back from a four-month layoff in the Sept. 28 Flower Bowl, where with little fanfare she turned in a solid performance finishing fourth, beaten less than two lengths.

"She definitely needed the Flower Bowl," Frankel said. "I hope she's progressed. She's acting good."

There are questions about Starine's ability beyond 1 1/8 miles, but soft turf enhances her chances. Last season she scored easy wins in the Diana on good turf and the Grade 1 Matriarch on a boggy grass course. "She's all right on firm, but she's superior on soft," Frankel said.

The same might be said of Owsley, whose wins this fall in the Grade 3 Glens Falls and the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy have come on yielding turf. But as a late-maturing filly, Owsley's pattern of development is what gives her connections hope.

"She's run well on soft, but she's run pretty well everywhere," said trainer Randy Schulhofer. "She's definitely on the improve. Every race this year she's run a little better."

From the West Coast comes Dublino, a 3-year-old who has started only four times and never run a bad race. Disqualified in the $500,000 American Oaks, her first start since being imported from France, Dublino used a powerful stretch kick to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 24.

Dublino has not raced since, and the layoff as well has her age and inexperience may turn bettors away from her. But the gap between races was part of trainer Laura de Seroux's master plan, and de Seroux is ecstatic about the way Dublino approaches Saturday's race.

"I'm delighted with her," she said. "She's really been acting like she's winding up to the race. My eye tells me she's ready to run."

Kazzia improving, but not training

Kazzia's injured hoof continues to improve, but the Flower Bowl winner missed her third straight day of training Tuesday.

Kazzia developed a painful abscess in her left front foot Saturday night. The abscess was pierced, drained, and has been drying out, and assistant trainer Tom Albertrani said Tuesday that Kazzia "is a lot better today. It's going the right way."

Albertrani remains hopeful that Kazzia will feel well enough to gallop Wednesday at Belmont.

- Riskaverse had an easy turf breeze around the dogs Tuesday at Arlington, and trainer Pat Kelly said he's leaning toward entering Riskaverse in the Filly and Mare Turf. Though pre-entered, Riskaverse's participation has been up in the air because she raced two weeks ago, winning the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.

- Islington made her first appearance on the Arlington track on Tuesday, trotting easily along behind Turf pre-entrant Golan. She is scheduled to have a more serious morning of training Wednesday.