06/15/2003 11:00PM

Moon Ballad returns on turf


Falbrav is in a position to upset Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad in the Group 1, $585,000 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot Wednesday.

Falbrav was trained in Italy last year and won three Group 1 races, including the Japan Cup by a nose over Sarafan. Falbrav is now with trainer Luca Cumani at Newmarket. The 5-year-old son of Fairy King won the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan by 1 1/2 lengths over Bright Sky going 1 1/8-miles, 55 yards last month at Longchamp, and should relish the good to firm ground with top Italian rider Mirco Demuro aboard.

Moon Ballad returns to turf for his first start since cruising to a five-length victory over Harlan's Holiday in the Dubai World Cup March 29. Moon Ballad finished second, beaten a half-length, to Storming Home in last October's Champion Stakes at the Prince of Wales's 1 1/4-mile distance, but he may be a bit better on dirt and therefore vulnerable here.

Group 1 Juddmonte International winner Nayef and defending Prince of Wales champ Grandera are also making their first starts since the World Cup, providing two more reasons to back the in-form Falbrav. Nine of the 11 starters in this sterling field are Group 1 winners, the other five being Kaieteur, Olden Times, Paolini, Rakti, and the filly Islington.

America America is likely to be the first American-trained runner in the history of Royal Ascot when she lines up in the $108,000 five-furlong Group 3 Queen Mary Stakes for juvenile fillies. Trained by Florida-based Frenchman Franck Mourier, America America finished second in the $50,000 Mockingbird at three-furlongs at Gulfstream April 24. She will be ridden by Gary Stevens, but appears up against it facing the likes of the unbeaten quartet of Attraction, Catstar, Malaica, and Vermillian.

Stevens will be aboard Membership in the Group 3, $125,000 Jersey Stakes for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs. Trained by Clive Brittain, Membership finished third in the listed European Free Handicap behind subsequent Irish 2000 Guineas winner Indian Haven and may be good enough to take the measure of Monsieur Bond, who finished an unlucky sixth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.