07/25/2002 12:00AM

Jilbab a pleasant surprise


LEXINGTON, Ky. - At the beginning of the year, the Godolphin team had good reason to hope that it would lead a daughter of A.P. Indy into the winner's circle after one of the Oaks in Kentucky or New York. Sure enough, Godolphin won last weekend's Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, but the winner, Jilbab, was not the filly Godolphin expected.

Godolphin's best filly last year and the principal reason for its hopes in the filly classics was champion juvenile filly Tempera, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and was regarded as the best staying 2-year-old filly last year.

Unfortunately, Tempera was disappointing in her races in Dubai over the winter, and shortly after her return to the U.S., she developed colitis and died. The loss of Tempera was a considerable blow to the Godolphin operation in the States, but Jilbab has become a major success for them.

At the beginning of the year, Jilbab wasn't even on the main string for Godolphin. Tom Albertrani, Godolphin's assistant trainer who manages the Godolphin string in New York, said, "We knew of Jilbab but didn't notice her until she won the allowance so easily."

That victory came at Belmont on June 16, when the filly ran a mile in 1:35.20, beating fillies aged 3 and up by 13 1/4 lengths. At that time, Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains one of the support strings for the Maktoums, trained Jilbab. Albertrani said, "Kiaran came to me after that race and said, 'She belongs in your barn,' and she's been with us just under a month now."

Although Jilbab didn't develop her best form early, the combination of maturity and longer distances have made her more effective. Albertrani believes that "from the way she ran in the Oaks" - she got left and still closed - "she'd be effective going shorter." He would especially like "to see her improve between now and the Alabama."

Not a very large or robust filly, Jilbab stands about 15.3 hands, and Albertrani described her as "quite light-framed, quite narrow. She had a long hair coat and still looks like she's got a lot of improvement in her."

As expected with a filly of this type, Jilbab doesn't need to be trained hard. "We did less with her than with just about any horse in the barn," Albertrani said. "Kiaran said he didn't do a lot with her. So I kept her on a light training schedule to keep the weight on her and worked her three times between her last race and the Oaks. And those works weren't anything special."

Lacking the brute power of colts, refined fillies such as Jilbab succeed at racing because they are very efficient movers. They get over the ground with the minimum exertion, and particularly at distances of a mile or more, they will win a respectable share of races, while speedier fillies will tire because of overexertion early in the race or extra weight or less effective strides. In short, Jilbab has a lot of natural ability, and that, as Albertrani says, makes her easy to train.

The trick, however, with a filly such as Jilbab, who is not heavily muscled, is to keep enough weight on her to give her the energy to make a good effort over a distance. Muscle is jet fuel for racehorses, and the Godolphin team seems to have found a balance with Jilbab that is moving her into very good form.

Godolphin believed that Tempera was going to be a really good filly this year, and "although Jilbab still has a lot to prove, she looks like she could be just as good," Albertrani said.

Simply siring one filly of this quality is a major accomplishment, and for A.P. Indy to have a pair in a single crop is a justification for the very high regard that breeders have for him. A winner of the Belmont Stakes in 1992, when he was champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year, A.P. Indy is a son of Seattle Slew and is one of the best sources of classic quality in American breeding.

Jilbab, whose name comes from a traditional style of dress for Islamic women, is yet another top-level winner for A.P. Indy. Jilbab, bred in Kentucky by Darley Stud Management, is out of the unraced Machiavellian mare Headline and is the mare's second foal. Headline has a 2-year-old colt by Spinning World named Ancient World, and she has a yearling filly by Quiet American.

In addition to the accomplishments of Jilbab's sire, A.P. Indy, the filly's female family has produced some star classic performers. Headline is out of Priceless Fame, a full sister to Bold Forbes, who was champion 3-year-old colt of 1976 when he won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Priceless Fame produced Dunbeath, a highweighted juvenile colt in England, and the top-class juvenile Saratoga Six. Another of the mare's daughters, a full-sister to Saratoga Six named Milliardaire, produced Lakeway, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, Hollywood Oaks, Mother Goose, and Las Virgenes.