10/13/2004 11:00PM

Ticker Tape heads the QEII parade

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Barancella, second in her U.S. debut, the Garden City Breeders' Cup at Belmont, is now trained by Bobby Frankel.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A Keeneland tradition that began 20 years ago this month when the Queen of England visited this bucolic track will be renewed Saturday, albeit without the queen. Nonetheless, an ample supply of racing royalty should give fans plenty to gawk at when the $500,000 matches some of the best 3-year-old turf fillies from North America and beyond.

Foremost among the seven fillies entered are Ticker Tape, a California filly whose feats this year include a victory in the Grade 1 American Oaks, and Barancella, a French filly who made a good showing last month in her Stateside debut in New York and is sure to garner more attention now that she is being trained by Bobby Frankel.

Ticker Tape, a British-bred who came under the care of trainer Jim Cassidy last fall, has never run a bad race in nine starts in the United States.

"She's been very consistent, a real top filly," said Cassidy.

Situated just two weeks from the Breeders' Cup - a little too close for the comforts of most modern-day trainers - the 1 1/8-mile QEII produces a starter for the BC Filly and Mare Turf only on occasion. Still, the race stands proudly on its own merits.

"We won't go to the Breeders' Cup regardless of how she does," said Cassidy. "This is what we've been looking at for a while now. This is our big race for the end of the year. It'd be more than enough to satisfy us. Maybe we'll go to the Matriarch later on, but certainly not the Breeders' Cup."

Barancella, trained then by Freddie Head, was overlooked at 25-1 when she ran second to Lucifer's Stone in the Garden City BC at Belmont Park five weeks ago.

"We found out right away that she is a very, very good filly," said Jose Cuevas, Frankel's traveling assistant.

Several other fillies also have the credentials to prevail Saturday.

Mambo Slew, trained by Patrick Biancone, is a three-time stakes winner who tends to use a steady late run to contend. She and Ticker Tape already have met five times, with Ticker Tape doing better in the more recent meetings, although Mambo Slew did beat her in two races in California last winter.

Island Sand, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn, will make her grass debut trying to earn a ticket to the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She is sure to take solid betting support, as she will be ridden by the popular Pat Day.

Finally, Phantom Wind already has QEII bragging rights, since her dam, Ryafan, captured this race seven years ago. Bred and owned by Juddmonte Farms, Phantom Wind, by Storm Cat, will be making her North American debut after winning 2 of 6 starts in the United Kingdom. Jerry Bailey, riding on a Saturday for the first time since Aug. 28, will be aboard Phantom Wind.

Phantom Wind is one of the top potential story lines for the race: Ryafan died from uterine artery hemorrhaging just minutes after foaling Phantom Wind on April 12, 2001.

Rounding out the QEII field are River Belle and Humorous Miss.

The QEII, the fourth and last Grade 1 race of the Keeneland fall meet, is carded as the eighth of 10 Saturday races, with post time set for 4:45 p.m. Eastern. The race is the focus of a one-hour broadcast that begins at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

The field

Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
Purse: $500,000; 1 1/8 miles, turf; Grade 1

1Mambo SlewT. Farina6-1
2River BelleR. Bejarano8-1
3BarancellaE. Prado5-2
4Island SandP. Day9-2
5Ticker TapeK. Desormeaux3-1
6Phantom WindJ. Bailey7-2
7Humorous MissJ. Graham20-1

* All starters carry 121 pounds
* Odds by Kristin Sadler
* Television: Saturay, 4- 5 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN2