10/24/2001 11:00PM

F&M Turf: European-dominated field runs for record purse

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ELMONT, N.Y. - A division championship is almost certainly on the line, along with a record $1,390,000 million purse, when 12 of the world's best female grass specialists meet in Saturday's third running of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

The Filly and Mare Turf will have a decidedly European flavor, with eight of the 12 starters having been bred and raced overseas.

The Filly and Mare Turf will be run over Belmont Park's inner turf course at 1 1/4 miles, the distance at which it was originally intended when the race was added to the Breeders' Cup lineup for the first time in 1999. The first two editions of the race, run at Gulfstream Park and Churchill Downs, were at 1 3/8 miles because of the configuration of the grass courses at those tracks.

The purse has been swelled from $1 million because of the supplemental fees paid by the connections of four of the starters. Starine, England's Legend, and Kalypso Katie were supplemented for $90,000 apiece, while Spook Express was supplemented for $200,000.

The reason so many owners were willing to pay the extra money to participate is that Saturday's winner is likely to earn an Eclipse Award. Both previous winners of this race, Soaring Softly in 1999 and Perfect Sting in 2000, walked away with Eclipse Awards.

"My owners are paying $200,000 to win a championship," said trainer Tom Skiffington, explaining why Spook Express's owners, Robert and Janet Aron, were willing to supplement their horse to the race.

As both the owner and trainer of Starine, Bobby Frankel had to put up his own money. He echoed Skiffington's sentiments regarding the ramifications of the race.

"Whoever wins will be the filly and mare champion," said Frankel. "And as far as I'm concerned winning a race of this magnitude and a championship means so much more than the money."

Starine is one of four in the race who used the Grade 1 Flower Bowl as a final prep for the Filly and Mare Turf. The Flower Bowl not only was at the same distance and on the same course as the Filly and Mare Turf, it has also proven to be a reliable measuring stick for race. Two years ago Soaring Softly and Coretta finished first and second in the Flower Bowl, then returned and finished one-two in the inaugural running of the Filly and Mare Turf.

Lailani won this year's Flower Bowl in her United States debut, defeating England's Legend, Starine, and Chaste for her seventh consecutive victory. But the 3-year-old Lailani had the misfortune of drawing post 12 on Saturday.

"Obviously I'd like to have been drawn lower, but hopefully I've got the best horse and the best rider [Jerry Bailey], and that usually makes up for a lot of problems," said Edward Dunlop, who trains Lailani for Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum.

Dunlop will also send out Mot Juste, who finished second to Lailani earlier this year in the Group 1 Irish Oaks and is coming off a sharp second over heavy ground in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp.

Frankel is hoping for an honest pace for Starine, who rallied to win the Grade 2 Diana by five lengths Sept. 3 at Saratoga.

"If she runs like she did in the Diana, they're not going to beat her," Frankel said.

The pace in the Filly and Mare Turf, as it was in the Flower Bowl, is expected to be set by England's Legend, who led through midstretch in the Flower Bowl before being passed by Lailani. In her previous start, England's Legend led throughout in the Grade 1 Beverly D.