09/24/2003 12:00AM

Several top prospects may be conspicuous by absence


With less than a month remaining before Breeders' Cup Day, there is a good chance several of the leading members of the division may not make it into the starting gate for the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf.

Pending a last-minute change of heart, Europeans Islington and Nebraska Tornado are both expected to pass the race. Meanwhile, Voodoo Dancer and Dublino, two of the top U.S.-based contenders, will miss important preps this weekend while nursing minor health problems.

Islington, who finished third after being forced to steady repeatedly in the 2002 Filly and Mare Turf, is being pointed to the Japan Cup by trainer Michael Stoute. Nebraska Tornado, who has won 4 of 5 starts, including two Group 1 races, is more likely to start in the Breeders' Cup Mile than the Filly and Mare Turf.

Saturday's Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park and Sunday's Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita are the first of five remaining important prep races for the Filly and Mare Turf. Others are the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland and Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on Oct. 5, and the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 11.

Both the Flower Bowl and Yellow Ribbon lost key contenders with Voodoo Dancer and Dublino on the sidelines this weekend.

Voodoo Dancer contracted a sinus infection shortly after her victory over Heat Haze in the Grade 1 Diana Handicap in July at Saratoga. She recently spent three days at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic before returning to training at Belmont earlier this week.

"She should be okay, but I'll wait and and run her next weekend either in the WinStar Galaxy or the Kelso," said trainer Christophe Clement. The WinStar Galaxy Oct. 5 at Keeneland is for fillies and mares, and the Kelso on Oct. 4 at Belmont includes males.

Clement will be represented in the Flower Bowl by Dress to Thrill, who finished eighth for trainer Dermot Weld in the 2002 BC Mile. Dress to Thrill has captured one of three starts since switching to Clement's barn, and she is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington.

"She didn't have a great trip in the Beverly D.," said Clement. "If she runs in the Breeders' Cup this year it will be in the Filly and Mare Turf, not the Mile."

Dublino, who finished 10th after encountering early trouble in the 2002 Filly and Mare Turf, has a splint injury and will be trained up to the Breeders' Cup, according to trainer Laura de Seroux.

Among the other leading Breeders' Cup hopefuls scheduled to start in the Flower Bowl are Heat Haze, Dimitrova, and Snow Dance.

Heat Haze is one of three potential Filly and Mare Turf contenders from the barn of trainer Bobby Frankel, along with Tates Creek and Megahertz. Tates Creek will be favored in a Yellow Ribbon field that includes possible Filly and Mare Turf candidates Musical Chimes, Cassis, and Magic Mission.