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All Islington Needs Is Luck of the Irish

A troubled third in the Filly and Mare Turf last year, she is given another chance by trainer Stoute. Frankel has a solid trio in Heat Haze, Megahertz and Tates Creek.

October 25, 2003|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

No matter which horse prevails in today's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, it seems a given she will win the Eclipse Award as the female grass champion.

Since being added to the Breeders' Cup menu in 1999, the Filly and Mare Turf has been won by fillies Soaring Softly, Perfect Sting and Banks Hill, and the mare Starine. Each was later honored with an Eclipse.

Of the four previous winners in the race, which was run at 1 3/8 miles the first two years, before being shortened to its current 1 1/4 miles in 2001, only Soaring Softly was favored. A daughter of Kris S. trained by Jimmy Toner for the Phillips Racing Partnership, she was hardly an overwhelming choice, closing at 7-2.

Islington will be a shorter price today and a deserving favorite. An Irish-bred daughter of Sadler's Wells, trained by Sir Michael Stoute for the executors of the late Lord Weinstock, she is a three-time Group 1 winner in England.

She narrowly missed a fourth in last month's Irish Champion Stakes. A 16-1 shot, Islington was third, beaten by a neck. The first two finishers in the 1 1/4-mile race at Leopardstown were High Chaparral, the defending Breeders' Cup Turf champion, and Falbrav, a winner of half of his 24 starts, earner of more than $4.2 million and one of four main contenders in today's Turf.

This will be the second appearance in the Filly and Mare Turf for Islington and she is owed some luck. Some feel she was best when beaten last year. She had all kinds of trouble through the stretch at Arlington Park, eventually settling for third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Starine.

"We've always thought it would be nice to come back and have another crack at this race after last year," said Stoute, who twice has won the Breeders' Cup Turf, with Pilsudski in 1996 at Woodbine and Kalanisi at Churchill Downs in 2000. "She's every bit as good as she was last year. Her last race confirmed it.

"We didn't train her for the Arc [de Triomphe, which was run Oct. 5 at Longchamp] because I thought the ground would be too soft. She's very adaptable and shouldn't have a problem with this turf course.

"We just need a bit of luck."

Among the 11 other fillies and mares Islington has to beat are a trio trained by Bobby Frankel. Among them, Heat Haze, Megahertz and Tates Creek have won eight of 15 in 2003. Four of the victories were in Grade I races.

A winner of four of six since coming to the U.S. late last year, Heat Haze will be reuniting with Jerry Bailey aboard. Jose Valdivia Jr. has been the filly's rider in each of her victories in this country, but Frankel decided to go back to Bailey after the daughter of Green Desert was the beaten favorite under Valdivia in the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.

"Heat Haze might be the best of the three," Frankel said. "I don't think she got the best of trips in the Flower Bowl. It was just a screwed up race for her and she just got beat a length. She was giving away nine pounds to the filly [the 3-year-old Dimitrova, another Filly and Mare entrant] who beat her."

Besides sharing the same trainer, Heat Haze, Megahertz and Tates Creek have something else in common. They all love the Santa Anita turf course.

Heat Haze won the first two starts of her U.S. career here, Megahertz has won four of six in Arcadia, and Tates Creek has taken three of four, including last month's Yellow Ribbon.

Besides Dimitrova and Voodoo Dancer, the rest of the Filly and Mare field includes likely pacesetter Bien Nicole, longshot L'Ancresse, Mezzo Soprano, who has won three of seven for Godolphin Racing; Yellow Ribbon runner-up Musical Chimes, Riskaverse, who was seventh in this event last year, and the Aidan O'Brien-trained Yesterday.

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