Updated on 09/16/2011 9:29AM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: The course is the key


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A full field of 14 horses, including the defending champion Banks Hill and the American divisional leader Golden Apples, was pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but the field could be reduced by as many as four when final entries are taken.

This is only the fourth running of the Filly and Mare Turf, the newest Breeders' Cup race. The fifth of eight Breeders' Cup events on Oct. 26, the Filly and Mare turf is contested at 1 1/4 miles over Arlington's one-mile grass course. The race's purse is guaranteed at $1 million, but could swell to $1.28 million because of five supplementary entries, each for a $90,000 fee, $70,000 of which is paid out as part of the purse. Starine's fee was waived because her connections paid last year while Golden Apples, Islington, Kazzia, and Turtle Bow all were supplemented when pre-entries were taken Tuesday.

The complexion of the race remains uncertain, and not even Banks Hill, a romping winner of the race at Belmont last year, is certain to start because she doesn't handle wet turf. "If the course is soft the morning of the Breeders' Cup, she won't run," said Dr. John Chandler, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms.

Banks Hill, who picks up jockey Jerry Bailey, will start in trainer Bobby Frankel's name for the first time. Frankel also trains Starine, whom he owns.

Voodoo Dancer, second to Golden Apples in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon earlier this month, also may not start. Trainer Christophe Clement worries that Voodoo Dancer won't stay 10 furlongs against top company on a laboring grass course, and she, too, could be scratched because of wet conditions.

Gossamer, a top European miler, has first preference in the Mile and was accepted into the body of that race while Riskaverse just raced this past Saturday and may not run.

The race is divided, seven and seven, between North Americans and Europeans, though like Banks Hill some Europeans had their final prep in this country. The 3-year-olds Kazzia and Turtle Bow ran one-two in the Flower Bowl, the East Coast's major Filly and Mare Turf prep, and Zenda finished second to Riskaverse in the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.

Gossamer, Irresistible Jewel, and Islington make their first start in this country. Irresistible Jewel is considered a cut below the best Europeans, but Islington is a multiple Group 1 winner who was beaten only two lengths in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in her most recent race.

With convincing wins in the two best turf races for females in this country, the one-time European Golden Apples clearly heads the American contingent. Golden Apples won the Beverly D. over 10 furlongs on this course and beat Voodoo Dancer by a length in the Yellow Ribbon. She's joined by fellow Californian Dublino, who has never faced older horses but has finished first in both of her U.S. starts.

The improving 4-year-old Owsley upset the WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland in her Breeders' Cup prep, and Concernina invades from Canada on the heels of a strong second-place finish in the Atto Mile.