09/24/2003 11:00PM

Little sister could be better than Banks Hill


ELMONT, N.Y. - It sounded a bit blasphemous at the time, but shortly after receiving Heat Haze in his barn last fall, trainer Bobby Frankel told the owners, Juddmonte Farms, that she would be better than her older sister, Banks Hill.

Considering Banks Hill was a champion on two continents and Heat Haze had won only two of her first six starts in Europe, it was a pretty bold statement. It may turn out to be a prophetic one as well.

Heat Haze has won 5 of 6 starts since coming to North America, including the Grade 1 Beverly D. last month at Arlington Park. She figures to be a heavy favorite in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, a race Frankel hopes will set her up for next month's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

Frankel trained Banks Hill for only one race last year, a second-place finish in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. Frankel said Heat Haze moved better than Banks Hill.

"I got reports on her that she was a delicate filly, she didn't do well over there, and that I had to treat her with kid gloves,'' Frankel said. "I haven't found that to be the case. She's never taken a backward step.''

Heat Haze is a one-run closer whose kick is so explosive that she inhales her opponents down the stretch. Heat Haze's only loss in this country came by a neck to Voodoo Dancer in the Grade 1 Diana Handicap at Saratoga. Jockey Jerry Bailey may have let Heat Haze run prematurely that day.

Jose Valdivia, who is 4 for 4 aboard Heat Haze, is back aboard on Saturday.

"This kid lets her drop back and lets her make that one powerful run,'' Frankel said. "This kid knows her and has so much confidence in her.''

Though there does not appear to be much pace in the Flower Bowl, Frankel's bigger concern is if it should rain Saturday. Frankel believes Heat Haze is more effective on firmer ground.

Frankel said he fears Dimitrova, the 3-year-old filly who won the American Oaks at Hollywood. Dimitrova gets in with 113 pounds, 10 fewer than Heat Haze. Dimitrova finished second in the Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup against 3-year-old fillies on Sept. 7. Bailey rides Dimitrova.

Trainer Christophe Clement had entered both Dress to Thrill and Sixty Seconds in the Flower Bowl. He plans on running Dress to Thrill, but would substitute Sixty Seconds if the turf course were soft. Dress to Thrill, who won last year's Grade 1 Matriarch, finished sixth, 4 3/4 lengths behind Heat Haze in the Beverly D.

"She had a very wide trip in the Beverly D., but Heat Haze was the best horse that day,'' Clement said. "Even with a better trip I do not think I could've won the race.''

Dress to Thrill shows two bullet workouts over the Belmont turf course, and figures to be close to the pace under Corey Nakatani.

Snow Dance won the Grade 2 New York Handicap here in July, but was compromised by bad starts in the Diana and Ballston Spa at Saratoga. With a clean break, she is the likely pacesetter under Richard Migliore.

Riskaverse has only won once in five starts this year, but she has not run a bad race this year. She is 3 for 7 at Belmont, but the 10 furlongs is a question mark, trainer Pat Kelly admits.

Walzerkoenigin finished fourth in the Beverly D. but was caught in traffic for most of the stretch. She gets a rider switch to Edgar Prado, who was pleased with the filly's work on the Belmont turf on Wednesday.

Paul Harley, the racing manager for owner Baroness Karin Von Ullman, suggested that a change in tactics might be used in the Flower Bowl and that Walzerkoenigin deserves another chance at Heat Haze.

"``Obviously, we've got ground to make up if we're to have a shot,'' Harley said. "At this stage, we're going in confident she's going to run a big race."

Primetimevalentine completes the field.