10/28/2012 5:59PM

Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf: This is right time of year for Nahrain to strut her stuff

Tom Keyser
The European-based filly Nahrain, shown at Belmont Park last month, is a serious contender in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

ARCADIA, Calif.- Autumn stakes in the United States seem to fit the 4-year-old English filly Nahrain.

Last fall, she was second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in her first start in this country. Last month, she won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, her only stakes win in four starts this year.

[BREEDERS' CUP PPs: Visit DRF's official BC Handicapping Center]

Those results have trainer Roger Varian hopeful for a winning race from Nahrain in Friday’s $2 million BC Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

“It seems like her time of year,” Varian said in a phone interview from England earlier this weekend. “She thrives in the autumn.”

Friday’s race will be Nahrain’s first start in California. A winner of5 of 9 starts and $1,041,961, the filly is owned by Darley Stable. She was ninth in the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes at Royal Ascot in June in her 2012 debut, and eighth behind The Fugue in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, England, in August.

She rebounded to finish third in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes in Ireland on Sept. 9 before winning the Flower Bowl over BC Filly and Mare Turf hopeful Zagora.

“Her first two races in the summer weren’t to the level of what she showed us last year,” Varian said.

In the fall of 2011, Nahrain won her first major race in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera on the Arc de Triomphe undercard at Longchamp. At the time, she was unbeaten in four starts. The second to Perfect Shirl in the BC Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs was her first loss.

Over the weekend, Nahrain was part of a large contingent of European-based Breeders’ Cup runners who arrived at Santa Anita. They were in quarantine on Sunday and were expected to have their first racetrack training time on Tuesday.

The journeys across the Atlantic, and Irish Sea, that Nahrain has made in the last year do not concern Varian.

“She’ll go there with a big chance,” he said of Friday’s race.

“She’s done a fair bit of traveling. She’s been to America twice, and Ireland and France, all by planes. She takes the journey in stride. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

Aside from Nahrain, the foreign shippers for the BC Filly and Mare Turf include I’m A Dreamer, who won the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park in August and was fourth in the Flower Bowl; Ridasiyna, who won the Prix de l’Opera on Oct. 7; The Fugue, who was second to BC Turf contender Shareta in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in August; and Up, who won the Blandford Stakes against Nahrain.

Ridasiyna and The Fugue will lead the betting in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. The top American-based hopes for the race are Marketing Mix, the winner of the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29, and Zagora.

“It looks like a red-hot renewal,” Varian said. “I was impressed with Marketing Mix.

“I have a lot of respect for The Fugue. She’s been top notch in the U.K. all season. Of course, Zagora was second to us. I think it has good strength and depth.”

The race may lose a starter. The 5-year-old Peruvian mare Almudena, a five-time stakes winner in that country, is more likely to start in the $500,000 BC Marathon against males over 1 3/4 miles on Friday.

Trained by leading Peruvian trainer Juan Suarez Villarroel, Almudena has been based in California since late summer.