09/26/2007 11:00PM

Flower Bowl brings out the East's best

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - Horsemen don't often agree on many things, but there does seem to be a consensus on the nine-horse field set to contest Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park.

"This isn't the prep for the Breeders' Cup, this is the Breeders' Cup," said Jimmy Toner, the trainer of Masseuse, who won the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine last out.

"This is the Breeders' Cup before the Breeders' Cup," said Christophe Clement, trainer of Beverly D. winner Royal Highness.

"It's definitely the best of the American horses," said James Stack, the assistant trainer of European invader Alexander Tango, the 3-year-old who won the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap here on Sept. 8.

Though the Flower Bowl is not part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" series, the race's winner would almost certainly be among the favorites for the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27. The nine fillies and mares entered in the Flower Bowl have combined to finish first or second in 28 of 38 starts this year and have won 12 graded or group stakes in 2007.

Wait a While, last year's 3-year-old filly champion, may be a slight favorite in the Flower Bowl, run at 1 1/4 miles, despite having been beaten twice this year by My Typhoon, who is also in this stellar field.

After a summer in which she fell victim to a virus that forced her out of the CashCall Mile, Wait a While flashed her championship form, winning the Grade 2 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup at Saratoga by 2 1/4 lengths, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.00 and just missing the course record by 0.08 of a second.

"She's trained very well since then," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I think she showed in that race she's back in the form we had her in prior to that."

Pletcher's biggest concern is the weather. Wait a While is a superior horse on firm ground, and there was a chance of showers Thursday night into Friday.

Royal Highness has proved equally adept on any type of surface, but ran the best race of her career on "good" ground at Arlington when she won the Beverly D. by a head. Though she came from way off the pace that day, Clement doesn't feel she has a preferred running style.

"My filly can do whatever you want," he said. "You don't have to take her back. I'm just going to tell [Rene] Douglas to break and sit and let her run her race."

My Typhoon, who won the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga and beat Wait a While in the Just a Game here on Belmont Stakes Day, will attempt 1 1/4 miles for the first time. In her only start beyond 1 1/8 miles she finished sixth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths, in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at 1 3/8 miles.

"She ran her heart out in that race - she ran a good race in the Breeders' Cup," trainer Bill Mott said. "She may not get the mile and a quarter, but we'll give it a try."

With Rosinka in the field, My Typhoon is unlikely to get loose on the lead under Eddie Castro. Rosinka, trained by Graham Motion, has won four consecutive races racing on or near the lead, including the Grade 3 Glens Falls Handicap, in which she overcame a bobble at the break.

Alexander Tango will seek to become just the sixth 3-year-old filly to win the Flower Bowl in the 30-year history of the race. Alexander Tango flashed a brilliant turn of foot in the Garden City that enabled her to overcome a slow pace en route to a three-quarter-length victory. In her only race at 1 1/4 miles, Alexander Tango was second to Eagle Mountain, a colt who was the runner-up in the Epsom Derby.

Masseuse is 3 for 5 over Belmont's turf courses and ran a good second to Makderah in the New York Handicap here in July. After she won the Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine, she suffered a bruised foot that forced her to miss the Glens Falls.

"That may have been a blessing," Toner said. "She's coming into this race fresh, strong, and as good as she could be. I'll find out where we're at."

Argentina has run only once since finishing fifth in last year's Flower Bowl, that being a second-place finish to My Typhoon in the Diana. Frankel said Argentina wasn't as good physically last year as she is now.

Hostess and Lahudood complete the field.