10/09/2002 12:00AM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: A rare American favorite on grass


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Europeans can send all the horses they want. The deserving favorite in the Filly and Mare Turf is an American-based horse.

The Irish-bred Golden Apples has been in this country for more than 15 months now, and last Saturday she did nothing to discourage the notion she is the best female turf horse in the country, winning the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon by a length over Voodoo Dancer. Banks Hill, defending champion in the Filly and Mare turf, finished third, beaten four lengths.

It was the second straight Grade 1 win for Golden Apples, who duplicated the conditions of the Filly and Mare Turf winning the Beverly D. at Arlington in mid-August. Golden Apples will race next on only three weeks' rest, but the tight spacing is of no concern to trainer Ben Cecil. "She thrives on racing," Cecil said.

The Yellow Ribbon was part of a weekend full of meaning for the Filly and Mare Turf. Last Friday, Owsley won the WinStar Galaxy over Snow Dance and a disappointing Affluent.

Considered likely for the Filly and Mare Turf is Irresistible Jewel, a 3-year-old trained by Dermot Weld, who finished second in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on Sunday. She was beaten four lengths in the race by Bright Sky, whose owner, Alec Wildenstein, all but ruled her out of the Breeders' Cup, saying the race probably came up to quickly for a 3-year-old filly. The third-place finisher, Marotta, also is a candidate for the Breeders' Cup, though she must be supplemented for $90,000.

Islington, a close fifth last Sunday in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is considered doubtful for the Filly and Mare Turf according to the International Racing Bureau. Even less likely for the race is Aquarelliste, sixth in the Arc.

Kazzia and Turtle Bow, one-two in the Flower Bowl at Belmont, remain on target for the Breeders' Cup, while E.P. Taylor winner Fraulein is stabled at Arlington and pointing toward the race.

Affluent struggled home fifth over yielding turf in the WinStar Galaxy. "I think we're going to pass on the Breeders' Cup," trainer Ron McAnally said Wednesday.

Owsley, who runs well on wet turf, is likely to go on to the Filly and Mare Turf, but the prime American prep could turn out to be the Yellow Ribbon.

Cecil said at first he "wasn't all that impressed" with the way Golden Apples won. "But then I went back and looked, and they came home in 22 and 2," he said. "I don't see how she could finish much faster than that at a mile and a quarter."

Cecil said Golden Apples would breeze a half-mile Sunday, five furlongs the next Sunday, and ship to Arlington three or four days before she runs.

Meanwhile, the vanquished Banks Hill suffered through a difficult trip in the Yellow Ribbon and is sure to defend her Filly and Mare Turf title. But Voodoo Dancer is by no means certain to run back in the Breeders' Cup, since trainer Christophe Clement remains unconvinced his filly is a true 1 1/4-mile horse. Clement said England's Legend remains under consideration for the Breeders' Cup, pending a workout this weekend in New York.