10/05/2002 12:00AM

Golden Apples best in Yellow Ribbon

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ARCADIA, Calif. - A stylish win in Saturday's $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita gave Golden Apples the first of two objectives for October.

Now, Golden Apples goes to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Arlington Park on Oct. 26 as the favorite.

"I'm relieved that's over," trainer Ben Cecil said in the winner's circle. "But I've got the next one to worry about."

Beating a top-class field that included the New York invader Voodoo Dancer and the European star Banks Hill, Golden Apples emphasized her status as the nation's leading female on turf with her third stakes win of 2002.

She ran 1 1/4 miles on turf in 1:59.72, but was not threatened in the stretch by Banks Hill, the winner of the 2001 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Belmont Park.

Golden Apples and Banks Hill both stalked the pacesetters Nepenthe and Noches de Rosa for the first mile, but had very different trips in the final half-mile.

Jockey Patrick Valenzuela brought Golden Apples wide on the final turn to pass the pacesetters. At that point, Banks Hill was stuck in traffic behind the frontrunners and was not able to keep up with Golden Apples. By the time jockey Corey Nakatani had found a clear path in early stretch, Golden Apples and Voodoo Dancer had pulled away.

Golden Apples quickly pulled clear from Voodoo Dancer in the final furlong.

"She just completely put her away in the stretch without me even getting after her," Valenzuela said.

Racing on the outside, Golden Apples ($4.80) won by a length over Voodoo Dancer, who was three lengths clear of Banks Hills, the even-money favorite.

"I was in pretty tight," Nakatani said. "When they quickened away from us, they were way outside."

Golden Apples's stretch run impressed Cecil.

"It's not her style to be that close, but it kind of allowed her to make the first jump," Cecil said. "Pat said he had a lot left."

Golden Apples will face challengers throughout the world in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Owned by Gary Tanaka, the 4-year-old Golden Apples approaches the race with experience over the course, having won the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park in August.

"I think there will be some good fillies and mares from Europe at the Breeders' Cup," Tanaka said. "It's kind of exciting knowing we've been to Chicago and won."