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It could be a big Euros payoff at Breeders' Cup

Several horses from the old continent might win races on Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita.

November 05, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Twenty-five years ago, at Hollywood Park, Chief's Crown, a grandson of Secretariat, became the first horse to stroll into a Breeders' Cup winner's circle, having prevailed in the one-mile Juvenile.

Since then, the Breeders' Cup, whose 26th edition is being staged Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita, has produced another 194 winners.

Add them up and 152 were American-bred.

Of the 43 foreign-bred winners, 35 were from Europe, four from Canada and four from Argentina.

If form prevails, look for the Europeans to chalk up a few more victories this weekend. All but one of the 14 races -- the exception is Friday's $2-million Juvenile Fillies -- has one or more foreign entrants, and in five of the 13 races a European horse is favored, as follows.

* Jockey Frankie Dettori will take British-bred Mastery to the post as the 9-5 favorite in the $500,000 Marathon for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

* Also on Friday, Irish-bred Lilly Langtry is considered the 3-1 top choice in $1-million Juvenile Fillies Turf, when John Murtagh will be in the saddle for trainer Aidan O'Brien.

* Another Irish horse, Goldikova, has morning-line odds of 8-5 in the $2-million Mile, with Olivier Peslier set to ride for trainer Fred Head. Goldikova won the race last year.

* Murtagh will be aboard another O'Brien favorite Saturday when he takes Irish-bred Mastercraftsman to the starting gate as the 6-5 choice in the $1-million Dirt Mile.

* Finally, Conduit, one of 16 horses from Ireland competing in this Breeders' Cup, is listed as the 7-5 choice to defend its title in the $3-million Turf. Ryan Moore will ride for trainer Michael Stoute.

European horses won four of last year's Breeders' Cup races, and that does not include $5-million Classic winner Raven's Pass, who had raced only in Europe beforehand but was bred in Kentucky. Still, Europe claimed him as one of its own.

This year's challengers appear equally formidable.

"I would say it's as strong as last year," said trainer Ralph Beckett, who won the Marathon last year with Muhannak and sends the Irish 5-year-old out in the same race Friday. "I'm sure if there are five European winners this year we'd be very pleased."

Short reins

Jockey Mike Smith rides Zenyatta, the 5-2 favorite in the $5-million Classic, but three of his other Breeders' Cup mounts are listed at 20-1, one is 30-1, and two are 50-1. Go figure. . . . Spanish Moon, banned for six months from racing in England because of bad gate habits, raced successfully in France and is the second favorite under rider Kieren Fallon in the $3-million Turf.

Zenyatta rival

It has been a long year for Rip Van Winkle, but Wednesday morning, outside the quarantine barn, his trainer, O'Brien, sounded a bit more confident of seeing the 7-2 second choice upset favorite Zenyatta.

"He has been swimming against the tide all season," O'Brien said of the colt's 2009 campaign, his foot problems, the strain of travel, the heat and much else.

"He was a bit quiet and maybe a little lethargic after the long journey. So it worries you.

"But the moment he stepped out here it all came rushing back. That's what makes him different.

"Whatever kind of mind he has, everything else just goes away. He must get a massive rush of adrenaline, and then he has the movement to go with it. It's very unusual."


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