08/26/2010 2:58PM

Americain in Paris, Headed to Melbourne

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Racegoers may remember Americain, the horse that sported the Wertheimer brothers' blue and white colors in a trio of graded stakes last summer and fall for Todd Pletcher. He had no success in them, and even less when mysteriously dropped down to a mile for an optional claimer at Gulfstream in January.
A son of the outstanding stamina influence Dynaformer, Americain had been sent to America by the Wertheimers in the hope that he could add to his fine record in French staying races by winning a graded stake or two at a mile-and-a-half. The idea was to increase his marketability at stud, but nothing went right for him under Pletcher as Americain finished unplaced and well beaten in Saratoga's Sword Dancer, Belmont's Bowling Green and Keeneland's Sycamore.
The experiment was a noble one for a horse that had won the Group 3 Prix Lutece at 1 7/8 miles and the 1 15/16-mile, Group 2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier, both at Longchamp, for his original trainer Andre Fabre. But although he had broken his maiden first time out at 7 furlongs, Americain had never won in France at anything shorter than 1 7/8 miles, failing twice at 1 1/2 miles.
Following his third-place finish in that Gulfstream mile on Jan. 3, Americain was sold to Gerard Thomas Ryan who promptly sent him back to France to be trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre. Back in his element, Americain began to pay dividends almost immeditely. After a pipe opener at Chantilly in June in which he finished fifth in a 1 7/8-mile listed race, Americain has won three straight at or about the same distance.
First came a 1 13/16-mile conditions race at Clairefontaine. Next was the listed 1 7/8-mile Prix du Carrousel at Deauville. In his most recent outing on August 22 at Deauville, he returned to his best, taking the the 1 7/8-mile, Group 2 Prix Kergorlay, beating Manighar and Blek, both Group 2 winners in races of similar length.
Afterwards, Royer-Dupre announced that Americain would soon go into quarantine prior to flying to Australia for the 2-mile Melbourne Cup at Flemington on Nov. 2, when he is likely to run into the Luca Cumani-trained Manighar again. Royer-Dupre would have liked to get another run into Americain in France beforehand, but the strict Australian quarantine laws dictate that he must begin quarantine early next month.
Americain, who was bred in Kentucky by the Wertheimers, is a perfect example that we can still breed first-class stayers in this country, especially when helped along by some European stamina on the female side. Americain is out of an Irish-bred Arazi mare named America who won the 1 1/2-mile, Group 2 Prix de Malleret at three. He is a half brother to Amarak, who was third in a 1 7/8-mile listed race at Deauville last August.
But it his sire Dynaformer that stamped him with the potential to be a first rate stayer. The sire on this side of the Atlantic of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, two-time Flower Bowl winner Riskaverse, Beverly D winner Dynaforce and American Oaks winner Gozzip Girl, Dynaformer rarely gets a chance to prove that he can sire winners beyond 1 1/4 miles in this country, simply because there are so precious few races here beyond that distance.
He has done just that in Europe, however. In addition to Americain, Dynaformer is the sire of Lucarno, the winner of the classic St. Leger Stakes at 1 3/4 miles, 132 yards, and Wiener Walzer, the winner last year of the German Derby and the Rheinland-Pokal, both of them Group 1 contests at 1 1/2 miles.
It would be nice if there were a greater variety of distances available on any typical American card, but this will only be feasible when we begin to breed horses capable of staying distances beyond 10 furlongs, and especially beyond 12 furlongs. That is not the case right now, as highlighted by this year's Belmont Stakes, most of whose runners were bred to get no further than 1 1/8 miles. That this year's Belmont was run for the first time in history in a time slower than the Epsom Derby at the same distance, tells us something about the state of stamina in American racing.
It would be interesting to hear from readers what their position on racing at longer distances might be, especially from the betting segment of the public. Doesn't it get boring betting on one sprint race after another? Wouldn't you like to see a little variety added to the typical American racing program? I know I would. Thoroughbreds are bred to run at distances between 5 furlongs, like California Flag, and 2 1/2 miles, like 4-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats.
Horses like Americain and Yeats will never be able to show their best in the U.S. until we card races to suit them. And we shouldn't be carding long distance races until we begin to breed horses that are capable of running in them. Maybe if the betting public wanted to see and bet on such races, the breeding industry would wake up to the possibilities.