10/03/2001 11:00PM

Countdown to the Cup: F&M Turf (10/4)

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Last Saturday's Grade 1 Flower Bowl Handicap set the bar for the Filly and Mare Turf after Lailani, England's Legend, and Starine all ran well.

Lailani established herself as the early favorite by catching front-running England's Legend to win the Flower Bowl by three-quarters of a length under her new rider, Jerry Bailey. Starine was another three-quarter lengths back in third. The Flower Bowl was decided at the same distance (1 1/4 miles) and at the same track (Belmont) as this year's Filly and Mare Turf.

"She's been fantastic, no other word can describe her," said Edward Dunlop, who trains Lailani. "She's flown across the world and beaten a filly who won a Grade 1 by eight lengths," he said, referring to England's Legend and her victory in the Beverly D.

Christophe Clement, the trainer of England's Legend, was encouraged despite her second-place finish in the Flower Bowl.

"My filly ran a good race and will be better off for it next time when a few things might be different, such as the weight," Clement said. "We gave Lailani five pounds and Starine three on Saturday. Lailani gets only two, and we'll run at even weights with Starine in the Filly and Mare Turf."

Both England's Legend and Starine must be supplemented to the Filly and Mare Turf at a cost of $90,000. Bobby Frankel, who owns and trains Starine, said he will wait to decide whether to supplement his filly, though he appears to be leaning in that direction.

While the Flower Bowl likely established the three top contenders for the Filly and Mare Turf, the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon failed to produce a strong candidate. Janet, who upset Tranquility Lake, will not be supplemented, while The Seven Seas suffered an entrapped epiglottis and has been withdrawn from consideration. Tranquility Lake is being pointed to the Distaff.

Trainer Andre Fabre has said he will send both Volga and Spring Oak, second and third, respectively, in Sunday's E. P. Taylor Stakes, to the Filly and Mare Turf, where they could join stablemate Banks Hill, who is also under consideration for the Mile. Choc Ice, upset winner of the E. P. Taylor, will not be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup and is likely to be pointed for the Matriarch, along with Janet.

Friday's WinStar Galaxy Stakes at Keeneland and Sunday's Arc de

Triomphe and Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp are this weekend's top preps.

Defending champion Tout Charmant hopes to earn herself a spot in the Filly and Mare Turf with a big effort in the WinStar Galaxy Aquarelliste puts her undefeated record on the line against males in the Arc, while Banks Hill and Crystal Music are the leading Filly and Mare hopefuls in the Prix de l'Opera.

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