08/17/2001 11:00PM

England's Legend romps in Beverly D.


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The last time heavy rain visited Arlington on Million Day, conditions were so bad that Shug McGaughey scratched his star turf horse, Lure, from the Million.

That was in 1993. On Saturday, Lure's daughter England's Legend scored a belated but spectacular triumph for her sire, romping to a front-running, 7 3/4-length victory over a yielding course in the $700,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park.

Although Astra was the 7-10 favorite, she was never a factor, fading to last in a field of nine fillies and mares. Instead, it was England's Legend, a 4-year-old trained by Christophe Clement, who thoroughly dominated, taking the lead at once and never being threatened. The Seven Seas rallied late to take second, two lengths before Spook Express.

"I've been very impressed with this filly ever since I sat on her back at Santa Anita," said winning jockey Corey Nakatani, referring to a sharp allowance victory at Santa Anita on March 14.

England's Legend, a French-bred filly owned by Baron Eduardo de Rothschild of France, returned $11 as second choice after finishing the 1 3/16 miles in 1:56.75. England's Legend's winning margin was easily the largest in the

12-year history of the Grade 1 Beverly D., widely regarded as a major barometer in the filly-mare turf division.

Through the opening six furlongs, Kalatiara and Megans Bluff were the only fillies within several lengths of England's Legend. But when the field turned for home, England's Legend loped even farther ahead as several late runners began battling for the place.

"I thought I was a winner at the quarter pole," said Alex Solis, rider of The Seven Seas. "Then I saw a horse about 10 lengths ahead, and I said, 'Oh, no.' "

Astra appeared poised to strike in fourth down the backstretch, where she began to falter.

"It was pretty simple," said jockey Kent Desormeaux. "She's such a magnificently built mare, about 17 hands and 1,200 pounds, that every step she takes, it's like she's going six feet into the turf. The ground was very, very soft. It was like she was digging a trench."

England's Legend now has won three of four U.S. starts after going 2 for 4 last year in France under trainer Andre Fabre. Neither the owner nor Clement was present; the winner was saddled by assistant Nicholas Bachalard.

The 8-9 exacta paid $81.60 and the 8-9-2 trifecta paid $622.40.

Lure, plagued by fertility problems early in his stallion career, was known for the flashy style that England's Legend displayed Saturday. Now 12, he stands at Coolmore Stud in Ireland.