Updated on 09/16/2011 8:22AM

BC Countdown - F&M Turf: Yellow Ribbon could determine favorite


As much as last weekend gave shape to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf with two significant preps, the coming one holds even more possibilities with three major races, from California to Paris.

At Santa Anita, Golden Apples, the leading turf female in this country, has a showdown with Banks Hill, last year's Filly and Mare Turf winner, in the Yellow Ribbon. At Keeneland, the 3-year-old Affluent takes on Surya in the WinStar Galaxy. Across the Atlantic, Islington and Aquarelliste race in the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

Banks Hill was to have started in the Flower Bowl last Saturday but didn't run because of soft turf at Belmont. Trainer Andre Fabre wants to run Banks Hill only on firm ground, and she shipped to California in search of a dry grass. She will find firm turf but also runs into Golden Apples, whose strong win over Astra in the Beverly D. stamped her as America's best hope for the Filly and Mare Turf. The Yellow Ribbon winner could be favored on Breeders' Cup Day.

Affluent, also an accomplished dirt horse, beat a tough-luck Golden Apples in the July 27 Ramona, and makes her first start since that race in the WinStar Galaxy. There, she will meet Surya, who has raced only eight times and has plenty of upside.

If anyone doubted the strength of the Europeans' hand in the Filly and Mare Turf, the cards they already have shown are imposing indeed. European shippers swept the top two places in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont and the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Sunday at Woodbine, all with 3-year-olds.

But no wonder they raced with such success, since both stakes were contested European style: a very slow early pace and a sprint to the wire on soft grass courses. At Belmont, Kazzia led all the way and held off Turtle Bow. At Woodbine, Fraulein outkicked Alasha for an upset win, with favored Volga a non-threatening third.

The Breeders' Cup definitely is on Kazzia's agenda while the connections of Turtle Bow are leaning strongly toward the race. Fraulein, less well regarded than the Flower Bowl horses, also could run back at Arlington while plans are uncertain for Alasha. The connections of Kazzia, Turtle Bow, and Fraulein all must pay supplementary nomination fees to race in the Breeders' Cup.

Kazzia, Godolphin's English Oaks winner, came out of her win in good order and will train up to the Breeders' Cup in New York, shipping to Arlington just before her start. Kazzia loved the soft turf in the Flower Bowl but is not limited by a preference for certain ground.

"I believe she'll handle both firm and soft, though she's especially good on soft," said Godolphin assistant trainer Tom Albertrani.

Mot Juste, third in the Flower Bowl, could run back in the Filly and Mare Turf, and fourth-place finisher Starine will be pointed to the race. "She'll probably go if everything's okay," said trainer Bobby Frankel. "She lost all the ground or she might have won."