Updated on 09/15/2011 1:15PM

Countdown to the Cup: Filly & Mare Turf (10/18)


BELMONT, N.Y. - For the first time in its brief history, the Filly and Mare Turf field will not be a full one on Breeders' Cup Day. Only 13 horses were pre-entered in the race, including Tranquility Lake whose first preference is the Distaff.

Each of the two previous runnings of the Filly and Mare Turf races had 14 starters. Both of them were run at 1 3/8 miles because of the configurations of the turf courses at the previous two sites, Gulfstream Park and Churchill Downs. But with this year's edition to be run on Belmont Park's inner turf course, the race will be run at 1 1/4 as intended when it was added to the Breeders' Cup program in 1999.

Several factors combined to limit this year's field. They include a late-season injury to then-division-leader Astra; an attack of colic that forced last year's Filly and Mare Turf runner-up, Tout Charmant, to miss time to prepare for another try at the Cup; the decision by the connections of Arc runner-up Aquarelliste to give their 3-year-old filly the rest of the year off; and the loss of Yellow Ribbon winner Janet because her owner, Jed Cohen, decided not to supplement the filly at a cost of $90,000.

But perhaps the prime reason many potential Filly and Mare Turf candidates shied away this year is the talent of the three leading contenders, Lailani, England's Legend, and Starine. The trio finished first, second, and third in that order in Belmont's Grade 1 Flower Bowl Handicap, a race that mirrors the conditions for the Breeders' Cup Fillies and Mares. And barring the unforeseen, they will be the top three choices when they match strides again on Oct. 27.

The Flower Bowl was a key barometer for the inaugural running of this race in 1999, after Soaring Softly and Coretta finished first and second in the prep, then finished in the same order on Breeders' Cup Day.

Both England's Legend and Starine - as well as Kalypso Katie - must be supplemented to the Filly and Mare Turf at a cost of $90,000 apiece. The owners of Spook Express will ante up $200,000 to supplement their mare to the race. The supplemental fees will raise the purse for the 2001 running to a record $1,470,000.

The other fillies and mares pre-entered for the big race include Volga and Spring Oak, second and third respectively in the Grade 1 E P Taylor Stakes; Euro-invaders Banks Hill and Crystal Music; Lailani's stablemate Mot Juste; Solvig; and Chaste.

Six of the prospective Filly and Mare Turf starters - Lailani, Banks Hill, Volga, Spring Oak, Mot Juste, and Crystal Music - are 3-year-olds.

Eight are European-breds. And Spook Express, who at 7 is the oldest member of the field, was foaled in South Africa.

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