10/11/2007 11:00PM

Filly-Mare Mile next for BC?

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - At the rate the Breeders' Cup is going, don't be surprised if the 11 races planned for the two-day Monmouth Park blowout later this month are someday increased to embrace even more specialized divisions.

Think of the new Breeders' Cup races as expansion teams, weak sisters of the traditional franchises that hold the league together. This year, as if they needed one, female sprinters get their own race, while the Classic division is being diluted with a mile and 70-yard race on dirt. In addition, 2-year-olds who for some reason prefer grass to the main track are being offered their very own million-dollar Breeders' Cup event. Hello Irish!

Fillies are welcome to run against colts in the Breeders' Cup turf race for 2-year-olds, but don't hold your breath. That leaves only the Breeders' Cup Mile to dangle in the wind as the only proven race of the championship program to actually encourage the commingling of males and females. That used to be a good thing.

You probably didn't hear it here first, but in order to present two viable Breeders' Cup matinees, there will need to be more Breeders' Cup races, and some semblance of balance between the two days. But the choices are getting slim, and right now a mile on grass for fillies and mares is about the only way left for the Breeders' Cup to expand without causing gales of laughter.

There already may be a growing movement to embrace the subdivision, if the ripples from last weekend's First Lady Stakes at Keeneland are any indication. The race was saddled with the silly "Win and You're In" designation, a promotion that makes one long for the days of "Go Baby Go." In the case of the one-mile First Lady, the unabridged, fine-print version actually read: "Win and you're in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf if you think your miler can find another three-eighths of a mile in three weeks and oh yes you still have to pay the $50,000 in entry fees unless you're not Breeders' Cup eligible and then you don't want to know how much it would cost. But you're in."

Owners Jon and Sarah Kelly and trainer Christophe Clement have decided not to ask Vacare, their dead-game First Lady winner, to make the Breeders' Cup leap. Instead, they will play to Vacare's strengths, and run her in the one-mile $500,000 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park in November.

In the meantime, look for tracks to starting pumping up the volume on mile grass races for fillies and mares. Out West, Hollywood Park already has the $1 million CashCall Mile, Del Mar puts up $250,000 for its 1 1/16-mile Palomar (it used to be a mile), and Santa Anita has the one-mile Buena Vista, which only needs a bit more polish to fit with the rest.

Oak Tree's Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita is well positioned to become an important mile grass stakes, if good reason can be found. The current purse of $100,000 is non-competitive, but this year's field is entertaining and topped by Missvinski, Group 1-placed in France.

The connections of nine others were not intimidated. Model, by Giant's Causeway, makes her stakes debut after three perfectly modulated appearances for Neil Drysdale. San Clemente winner Passified is always solid and likes the course. Silky Smooth comes off a good one under similar circumstances at Del Mar, while Supposition has got to be better than her two local races have shown.

Fleet Caroline, a daughter of Tejano Run, deserves a shot, as long as it is okay to throw out her ninth-place finish in her last start, the Del Mar Oaks. Prior to that, Fleet Caroline had 3 wins and 2 seconds in 5 starts, including a lapped-on finish with Passified in the San Clemente. Trainer Vladimir Cerin was asked to explain the mystery of the Oaks.

"I'm really not sure," Cerin replied. "I think she had two races in a row where she was really pressed on the lead, and maybe she just gave out a little bit."

Fillies will do that sometimes, take a day off without warning. Fleet Caroline has come back from the Del Mar disaster to work well, most recently under California newcomer Fernando Jara, the man who rode Invasor.

"Last time she worked really, really well for him," Cerin noted. "I think he's a really good rider, and a hard worker. Here's out all morning long, doesn't complain about a thing."

Jara has had a slow Oak Tree start, winning with just 1 of his first 43 mounts. But it looks like all systems could be go for him to break the stakes ice with Fleet Caroline.

"I wanted to take her back in this race, just to give her a little different perspective on racing," Cerin said. "But she's fit enough, and there's no other speed in the race. So I think she'll be doing it on the front end again, because she's also good enough to win."