10/15/2010 2:44PM

Warning from Woodbine; Breeders' Cup Update


What is happening at Woodbine on Saturday is an embarassment to the North American racing and breeding industries.
Fifteen of the 28 horses entered to run in the three Grade 1 races on Woodbine's Canadian International Day card are trained in foreign countries. Worse, eight of the ten runners in the E.P. Taylor Stakes are trained in Europe. The other two, Miss Keller and Mekong Melody, are formerly trained in Europe.
What would have happened at Woodbine this weekend if the Europeans had decided to stay home? Very likely we would have had five-horse fields for all three races. The 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor and the 1 1/2-mile Canadian International are examples of what happens when national breeding industries like those in the United Staes and Canada decide to breed almost exclusively for speed: the number of horses that can compete at those distances simply disappears.
Just as embarassing, only six of the 28 horses in the three races- the 6-furlong Nearctic Stakes is the third- are trained in America. Three of those are in the Nearctic. The days when Kentucky could produce top class middle distance horses for the domestic market are long gone.
The Ontario Jockey Club owes the International Racing Bureau (IRB) a debt of gratitude. Headed by Alastair Donald, the IRB is the Newmarket, England based outfit that recruits European horses to run at Woodbine, as well as in the Breeders' Cup. Adrian Beaumont, the man in charge of the recruiting, should be given the keys to the City of Toronto and unlimited spending money this weekend. Without his efforts, Woodbine's big day would have been a gigantic bust.

*Some off the radar developments on the Breeders' Cup front emerged this week. Godolphin has the Juvenile Turf in mind for their Gran Criterium winner Biondetti. Trained by Mahmoud Al Zarooni, Biondetti is from the first crop of Preakness/Travers/Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Bernadini and is a half brother to Grade 3 Mint Julep and Locust Grove winner Delta Princess as well as to Grade 1 Garden City winner Indy Five Hundred. Undefeated after three starts, Biondetti traveled from Newmarket to San Siro in Milan to win the one-mile, Group 1 Gran Criterium on Oct. 9.
There is a Godolphin precedent for sending Biondetti to the Juvenile Turf as the race was won by their Gran Criterium runner-up of last year, Vale of York.
Godolphin's Saeed bin Suroor is still eyeing the Filly & Mare Turf for his Yellow Ribbon winner Hibaayeb, although the Singspiel filly returned to Newmarket after her big win in California.
Keep an eye on Godolphin's Delegator in Saturday's Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. Last year's Breeders' Cup Mile fifth did not run again until Sept. 17 when he won the listed 7-furlong Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury. A good effort in the 7-furlong, Group 2 Challenge could earn the Dansili 4-year-old a second trip to the Mile, or to the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin on Dec. 12, or maybe both.
One should not rule out the possibility of the Australian-bred sprinter Starspangledbanner showing up for the Mile, either. A Group 1 winner going a mile in his native land when trained by Leon Corstens, he won 6-furlong Group 1's at Ascot and Newmarket this summer for Aidan O'Brien before finishing second in the 5-furlong Nunthorpe Stakes and fifth in the 6-furlong Haydock Park Sprint Cup. A return to a mile could be just what the doctor ordered for Starspangledbanner. Coolmore will be firming up thier Breeders' Cup plans during the next week.
Gilt Edge Girl is still under consideration for the Sprint or the Turf Sprint. The Clive Cox-trained daughter of Monsieur Bond held off Filly & Mare Sprint probable Lady of the Desert by a length to win the 5-furlong, Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp on Arc Day on a soft surface. Cox, who has Balthazaar's Gift in Woodbine's Nearctic Stakes on Saturday, is worried about firm ground, however, although Gilt Edge Girl did win a Bath listed race on that kind of surface in April shortly before landing the 6-furlong, Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at Leopardstown on good ground.
We applaud the decision of Breeders' Cup Ltd. to provide travel expenses for foreign runners in the Cup beginning in 2011. This puts the Breeders' Cup on a somewhat equal footing with Dubai World Cup Night in March, and especailly with Hong Kong International Race Day in December, and the big international races in Japan that run from November through December and include the Japan Cup and the Japan Cup Dirt. The Japanese and Hong Kong races are in competition for horses with the Breeders' Cup, and both the Japan Racing Association and the Hong Kong Jockey Club have been offering foreign raiders freebies for decades. Nice to finally catch up with the rest of the world.
It is also good to hear that Breeders' Cup Ltd. is thinking of switching the Marathon to turf, although lengthening the race from 1 3/4 miles to 2 miles would all but eliminate American competition. And if Cup officials are uneasy with the name Marathon, how about calling the race the Breeders' Cup Stayers?