10/04/2006 12:00AM

Preps attention turns to Belmont's Flower Bowl and Hirsch


Races last weekend from Los Angeles to Paris produced potential contenders for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, most notably the 3-year-old filly Wait a While, who cruised to a win the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita. Now, we shall see what transpires in New York, where Belmont hosts a pair of races Saturday with Filly and Mare Turf implications.

At Belmont, the Flower Bowl Stakes should showcase three of the best U.S.-based female grass runners - Film Maker, Honey Ryder, and Angara. Two European fillies, Freedonia and Royal Highness, go instead in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, where they will tackle males in order to get a longer distance: the Joe Hirsch is contested at 1 1/2 miles, the Flower Bowl at 1 1/4. The Filly and Mare Turf is run at 1 3/8 miles.

Freedonia and Royal Highness both have won Group 2 races overseas, but the major European Filly and Mare Turf prep came Sunday at Longchamps, where Mandesha won the Prix de l'Opera, a race that probably was Mandesha's 2006 finale. Satwa Queen, who was second to Mandesha, is a possible starter in the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine or the Filly and Mare Turf, to which she'd have to be supplemented for $180,000. Ouija Board, the 2004 Filly and Mare Turf winner, passed Sunday's race and runs instead in the Oct. 14 Champion Stakes at Newmarket. The 6-year-old mare Pride, second in Sunday's Prix de l'Arc d'Triomphe, has not been mentioned as a Filly and Mare Turf candidate.

While the Euros were sorting themselves out in France, Wait a While was making short work of overmatched foes in the Yellow Ribbon. Heavily favored, she won by 4 1/2 lengths, running her turf record to 4 for 4. On grass, no horse has gotten within four lengths of Wait a While, but other than the solid 3-year-old Lady of Venice, Wait A While hasn't faced sterling competition.

"I think she's very, very good," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "The thing that stands out is that, as a rule in turf racing, horses finish closer together than on dirt. She's won all her races by open lengths."

Wait a While is headed back to Pletcher's base in New York, where she'll train up to the Filly and Mare Turf. Pletcher said tentative plans had him shipping his BC contingent into Churchill Downs the Wednesday before the Nov. 4 races.

Pletcher could have as many as three Filly and Mare Turf entrants, depending on Honey Ryder's performance this weekend and Magnificent Song's performance on Oct. 14 in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. Honey Ryder was fourth last out in the Beverly D., but Pletcher said that the "year-long plan for her has been to run in the Filly and Mare Turf."

The QEII is expected to have a full field of 12, including German filly Germance, who could wheel back in the Filly and Mare Turf. On the same day, Keeneland hosts the First Lady Stakes, a one-mile grass race in which Gorella will be a heavy favorite. Gorella's connections have said they will decide after the First Lady whether Gorella will be pointed to the Filly and Mare turf or the BC Mile.