09/26/2012 4:19PM

Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf: Flower Bowl, Rodeo Drive attract cream of crop

Barbara D. Livingston
Marketing Mix figures to be favored in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita on Saturday.

With just more than five weeks remaining before the Breeders’ Cup, the prospective field for the Filly and Mare Turf remains unsettled. But important preps Saturday in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita should go a long way toward determining the key participants.

The two races, both run at the Filly and Mare Turf distance of 1 1/4 miles, are Win and You’re In Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, which provide the winner with an fees-paid berth in the race as well as a $10,000 travel allowance.

Not that a win will prove a necessity for a horse to punch her ticket for the Breeders’ Cup. Because both races feature much of the elite of the division, merely a competitive performance could advance a horse toward the Filly and Mare Turf.

Of the two races, the Flower Bowl drew more top-to-bottom quality, attracting Zagora, I’m a Dreamer, Nahrain, Hit It Rich, and Dream Peace.

Marketing Mix, the close second to I’m a Dreamer this summer in the Beverly D., is the headliner in the Rodeo Drive, a race contested as the Yellow Ribbon in years past. Her principal challenge is expected to come from City to City, a two-time graded winner in 2012.

Absent from the Rodeo Drive is Lady of Shamrock, the West’s top 3-year-old turf filly, who had a minor respiratory ailment. She will prep for the Breeders’ Cup in the Oct. 13 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland or train straight into the Nov. 2 Filly and Mare Turf.

Another American-based horse forgoing the Flower Bowl and Rodeo Drive is Aruna, who is bound for the Oct. 7 Spinster at Keeneland, a 1 1/8-mile race on Polytrack that she won last year.

Following a last-place finish by Aruna as the favorite in the Beverly D. – a race in which she stumbled at the start and then was checked leaving the final turn – trainer Graham Motion said he wanted to place her conservatively in a race with as few unknown variables as possible.

“The Spinster will allow us to see if she’s back to last year’s form to go the Breeders’ Cup or not,” he said Tuesday. “We might not have gotten that if we went in the Flower Bowl and the grass was soft or what have you.”

As usual, the Filly and Mare Turf is expected to draw a number of European invaders, with Up and The Fugue being two leading prospects, according to Adrian Beaumont of International Racing Bureau. Beaumont also speculated that Snow Fairy, one of Europe’s top horses, could be cross-entered in Filly and Mare Turf and the Turf.