10/22/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: No Voodoo Dancer, but a deep, tough field


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf has come of age quickly, and the field assembled for the race's fourth edition is one of the strongest of this year's Breeders' Cup.

Twelve horses were entered Wednesday in the Filly and Mare Turf, run at 1 1/4 miles over Arlington's broad sweep of turf. With a long run down the stretch and into the first turn, post positions are much less crucial here than in other Cup races. Voodoo Dancer was not entered in the race. Trainer Christophe Clement said Voodoo Dancer had coughed the last two mornings.

Back to defend her Filly and Mare Turf title is Banks Hill, trained for the first time by Bobby Frankel and ridden for the first time by Jerry Bailey. Banks Hill romped at Belmont Park last year by more than five lengths, but her rivals this year are stronger.

They include a pair of 3-year-olds, Islington and Gossamer, who are making their first starts outside Europe, just as Banks Hill did last year. Gossamer's connections had listed the Mile as first preference but chose the Filly and Mare Turf on Wednesday.

Islington is more highly regarded than Gossamer, and like Banks Hill she does not care for soft going and may find a home on a firmer American turf course. But while Banks Hill was more of a miler, Islington has been a 10- and 12-furlong horse this year while winning 4 of 6 starts.

Islington's only poor effort of the season was an eighth-place finish in the June 7 English Oaks, a race run over boggy going. "The ground really pulled her around," said trainer Michael Stoute. "It's well documented; she came out of the race with a lot of soreness."

Islington didn't race for almost two months, but was awesome when she returned, winning a pair of Group 1's over older horses by a combined nine lengths. Rested again in mid-August, Islington returned and finished fifth Oct. 6 in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, where she was beaten only two lengths. The effort was a strong one, but some wonder if only three weeks between taxing races could sap a young filly.

"We'd be happy if she hadn't had a hard race in the Arc," Stoute said. "She's already established her class in Europe, but now she's taking on the Americans in their backyard, and that's tough."

The best of the Americans is Golden Apples, a former English filly who heads the American contingent. She solidly defeated Banks Hill in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon, the pair's final Breeders' Cup prep. Pat Valenzuela, who is trying to capture his first Breeders' Cup race since 1992, rides Golden Apples.

Three-year-olds make nearly up half the field. Dublino has started only four times in her career, but showed a tremendous late kick in a pair of California races this summer. Riskaverse edged Zenda in the Queen Elizabeth II two weeks ago at Keeneland, and both run back Saturday. In the Grade 1 Flower Bowl, New York's prep for this race, only a neck separated the 3-year-olds Kazzia and Turtle Bow, both of whom are in the Filly and Mare Turf field.

Kazzia finally was able to train again Wednesday at Belmont, where she galloped 1 1/4 miles without incident. Kazzia was found to have a foot abscess Saturday "Right now everything looks fine, but we need to give things a couple days to make sure," said assistant trainer Tom Albertrani.

Five of the 12 entries were supplemented for 9 percent of the base purse, or $90,000, but Starine's fee was waived since her connections paid to run last year. The supplemental fees channeled back into the purse bring it to $1.28 million this year.