11/01/2012 10:57PM

Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf: The Fugue fresh, eager for firm ground


ARCADIA, Calif. – More than 5,000 miles from home, The Fugue should be very comfortable in her surroundings for Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

The richest race for turf females in the United States, the BC Filly and Mare Turf has been a goal for The Fugue since she ran a game second to Shareta in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks at York, England, on Aug. 23.

A firm turf course, a brief layoff, and the distance of 1 1/4 miles gives trainer John Gosden ample confidence in The Fugue.

“I prefer to have a nice freshening,” Gosden said earlier this week. “I think she’s better on the faster ground. Her action is good. It’s a sharp mile and a quarter, and it should suit.”

The Fugue has never been worse than third in seven starts, including a sharp win in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Goodwood, England, in August.

In the BC Filly and Mare Turf, she is part of an outstanding field of 11 that includes 9 Grade 1 or Group 1 winners. Aside from six American-based fillies and mares, there are two other top contenders from England as well as formidable runners from France and Ireland. Nereid, second in the Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita in September, was scratched Wednesday because she was found to be off behind.

The Fugue is in outstanding form, but a win in the Grade 1 BC Filly and Mare Turf will not be easy.

A British-bred filly by Dansili who races for breeder Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Watership Down Stud, The Fugue figures to be a slight favorite over the French import Ridasiyna, who won the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp on Oct. 7.
Nahrain, the British-based winner of the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 29; Zagora, the New York-based runner-up in the Flower Bowl; and Marketing Mix, winner of the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 29; are other leading contenders.

Arguments can be made for other runners.

I’m A Dreamer won the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes in her U.S. debut in August, returned to Europe, and then ran fourth in the Flower Bowl. She will be ridden by leading British rider Richard Hughes.

Lady of Shamrock was the dominant 3-year-old filly in California during the summer, winning two Grade 1 races – the American Oaks and Del Mar Oaks. She missed a prep race earlier this fall because of a brief illness in September.

The BC Filly and Mare Turf will be Lady of Shamrock’s first start against older fillies and mares and is run over a distance in her favor, trainer John Sadler said.
“She’s got plenty of stamina,” Sadler said. “I’ve never see her get tired. She doesn’t back up in her races.”

There are five 3-year-old fillies in the field, including Up, a Group 2 stakes winner trained by Aidan O’Brien; Stormy Lucy, third in the Rodeo Drive; and In Lingerie, the winner of the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland last month who has never started on turf.

John Shirreffs, famous for training 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, has two longshots in Nereid and Star Billing. They were Grade 1 winners in 2011.
The race lacks a dedicated pacesetter, which may result in In Lingerie or Nereid being prominent early. Marketing Mix and Ridasiyna are most effective closer to the front, while The Fugue and Zagora will be farther back.

Nahrain races as a stalker and has a strong record on firm turf.

“It might well be the firmest turf she’s ever been on,” trainer Roger Varian said. “She’s adaptable.”

The Fugue closed from the back of an eight-horse field to win the Nassau Stakes. In the Yorkshire Oaks over 1 1/2 miles, she led in the final furlong, but was beaten a neck by Shareta, a starter in Saturday’s BC Turf.

“It was run in sort of a monsoon,” Gosden said. “She had the race won, and the other filly came up the rail.”

Firm turf will help Zagora, trainer Chad Brown said. A 5-year-old mare owned by Martin Schwartz, Zagora is making her final start in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. She won the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Stakes at Saratoga in August and was beaten a half-length by Nahrain after leading in the stretch of the Flower Bowl.

Brown said she was not helped by the yielding surface that day.

“She is definitely going to run on strongly on firm ground,” he said. “She’ll run more effectively going a mile and quarter on firm than yielding.

“She’s had a good year. If she wins, she would be champion turf mare. She needs to run the race of her life. There are a handful of horses like that.”