Updated on 09/16/2011 8:19AM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: Dublino steps in to meet Euro forces


Astra is gone, retired to a career as a broodmare this week, and losing one of the top-rated female turf horses in the country is a blow to any stable. But trainer Laura de Seroux has a cushion, and her name is Dublino.

Lightly raced with only four career starts, and still only a 3-year-old, Dublino is a major West Coast talent from a barn that has had an incredible year hitting spots with top-class stock. And the spot now at hand is the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship Filly and Mare Turf.

The first-place finisher of the $500,000 American Oaks - in which she was disqualified - and the Del Mar Oaks in her two starts since being imported from France, Dublino has a regimen this weekend that includes a trip from de Seroux's training base at San Luis Rey Downs to Santa Anita, where she will breeze over the turf course.

Across the country, the action is hotter, with several major contenders set to do battle in a pair of turf stakes that bear directly on the Filly and Mare Turf - the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont and the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine.

Both races feature a strong European presence, with four Europeans, including Banks Hill, expected for the Flower Bowl. An overpowering winner of last year's Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont, Banks Hill may be subject to a change of plan, since trainer Andre Fabre is loath to run his filly on anything but firm turf and could ship Banks Hill to California for the Yellow Ribbon should Belmont's grass course turn up wet.

Banks Hill beat a questionable field by more than five lengths in last year's Breeders' Cup, but even with only one win in four starts this season, she has validated her quality. Banks Hill has raced in four Group 1's, all against males, and in her most recent start finished second by a half-length to Rock of Gibraltar, Europe's best miler.

Kazzia, Turtle Bow, and Tarfshi are expected to join Banks Hill in the Flower Bowl, though at this point Tarfshi is not considered Breeders' Cup material. Kazzia, on the other hand, won the English Oaks this spring, though she has battled injury late this summer.

Alasha and Choc Ice, the two Europeans for the E.P. Taylor, have not shown themselves to be in the class of Banks Hill, but there are still more top-level Europeans who could come to Arlington, including Aquarelliste, Gossamer, and Islington.

Clearly, the European contingent is formidable, but the Americans may be stronger this year, even without Astra. Heading the list is Golden Apples, winner of the Grade 1 Beverly D. in her last start, but she is followed closely by horses like Starine, who returns to action either in the Flower Bowl or the WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland. The Galaxy also could showcase Affluent, who spent much of this season chasing Azeri in dirt races.

And waiting in the wings is Dublino, who will have a series of grass works before her trip to Arlington. "I'm not concerned about going in with no prep," de Seroux said. As for Dublino's lack of experience, de Seroux feels her horse is advanced for her age, and points out Banks Hill won this race at age 3. "Dublino has a great mind, and she's shown no greenness in her races," she said. "I think she's seasoned enough now."