Updated on 09/16/2011 8:29AM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: Connections still high on Banks Hill


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - In just a month, Banks Hill has traveled from France to New York to California, and in a week she will complete the final leg of a whirlwind fall itinerary by flying to Arlington Park for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Had she come straight from France, Banks Hill's overwhelming win in last year's Breeders' Cup would define her participation in this year's race. But her unusual schedule and a definitive loss in the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita have some people thinking she may not be the same horse.

Hold that thought.

"We're still very high on her," said Dr. John Chandler, racing manager for Banks Hill's owner, Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms. "I certainly think she's as good this year as ever."

It seems odd, but Banks Hill's trip from trainer Andre Fabre's base in France has gone according to plan, Chandler said. When Banks Hill arrived in New York, her participation in the Flower Bowl at Belmont immediately became questionable because of wet weather. Her connections said Banks Hill would not run on soft turf, and they backed it up by scratching her when heavy rain hit. Banks Hill slipped out of Belmont and headed to California.

"Originally, Andre was looking to get her out of France before the weather started turning bad," said Chandler. "She gets her winter coat very quickly, and she's much more of a summer horse. Originally, he thought she would run in the Yellow Ribbon, but then the chance of running in the Flower Bowl came up, which would have given her an extra week to the Breeders' Cup. New York was just a stop along the way. We just came onto California. It wasn't a great hiccup."

Her Yellow Ribbon was a louder hiccup, but again, there were reasons. With little room to run for much of the race, Banks Hill had a compromising trip, and her loss to Golden Apples and Voodoo Dancer came with an excuse.

"The way the race set up, she got stuck there," Chandler said. "She's a fast filly, but she doesn't have that lightning acceleration."

Now, the Banks Hill plan is proceeding as envisioned. She's under the care of trainer Bobby Frankel - who will be listed for the first time as her trainer at Arlington - and basking in California sunshine, a simulation of summer by her European standards. "She's settled in just fine out there," said Chandler.

As for her Breeders' Cup preparation, Banks Hill "won't be doing much" before she leaves California, Chandler said. A tough season facing the best milers in Europe has Banks Hill fit enough to run without a major work. The soft turf rule, however, still applies, and Banks Hill won't run if Arlington's course comes up soft Breeders' Cup Day.

* Chandler said that Zenda, who narrowly lost the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland last Saturday would be pre-entered in the race, giving Juddmonte a backup on soft turf.

* Trainer Christophe Clement said he would pre-enter Voodoo Dancer. "If the ground is not too soft, she'll run," he said. Wet weather in New York kept Clement from working England's Legend this past weekend and she's out of the race.