10/26/2006 11:00PM

Araafa crosses pond for dangerous barn


Trainer Jeremy Noseda made a most auspicious Breeders' Cup debut in 2004 when he shipped Wilko from England to Lone Star Park and upset the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at odds of 28-1. Last year, Noseda came to New York with his second-string miler, Majors Cast, who finished two lengths back while finishing fifth behind Artie Schiller in the Mile at odds of 20-1.

Saturday, at Churchill Downs, Noseda will saddle his third Breeders' Cup starter and the odds will be much lower while expectations will be much higher on Araafa in the $2 million Mile.

Araafa is one of eight European-based horses expected to ship to Churchill Downs in the coming days for the Mile. With the connections of George Washington opting to run in the $5 million Classic, Araafa may become the favorite for the Mile.

"I'm delighted George Washington isn't there," Noseda said Friday from his headquarters in Newmarket. "George Washington aside, I think I go there with the best European miler form."

Araafa, a 3-year-old Irish-bred son of Mull of Kintyre, has won two Group 1 races this year, including a two-length victory over George Washington in the Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh in May. Araafa also won the Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Noseda believes Araafa has legitimate excuses for his three losses, two of which came to George Washington.

When Araafa ran fourth to George Washington in the 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket on May 6, he was making his first start in 7 1/2 months. Araafa was rank early and was beaten 4 3/4 lengths.

"He needed that race to put him spot-on," Noseda said. "He had a temperature three weeks before and that meant he missed his prep race."

Following his two Group 1 victories, Araafa ran fifth behind Court Masterpiece in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in August. Noseda said that Araafa missed the break, chased a suicidal pace, and came out of the race with a wrenched ankle. Araafa came back to beat Court Masterpiece by two lengths when those two ran second and third behind George Washington in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Sept. 23.

"I wasn't as happy with him going into Ascot as I'd like to have been," Noseda said. "We gave it a go. As it turned out, he ran a huge race. I look at him now and I feel that he's moved forward since Ascot and that he's a horse that's in better [shape] now than he was prior to Ascot."

Araafa completed his preparations for the Mile with a 5 1/2-furlong workout at Noseda's training center in Newmarket while sitting behind a lead horse.

"I was absolutely delighted with him," Noseda said. "He's in great shape."

Noseda said this will be Arrafa's final career start as he will be retired to Plantation Stud near Newmarket.

While Noseda feels he has the best European horse in the Mile, he has reached out for one of the best American riders in John Velazquez. Noseda said that Frankie Dettori is his "go-to" rider, but Dettori is committed to ride for Godolphin in that race.

"What more could we ask? We might be getting the American equivalent of Frankie Dettori, aren't we?" Noseda said. "He knows the track well. I feel it's a positive for us."

Noseda believes that Araafa can handle any type of ground, but he wouldn't mind seeing a soft Churchill Downs turf course on Saturday.

"The ground doesn't bother me, but if someone gave me the choice I'd have a yielding track because my horse would have no problem on it, and it might compromise some of the other contenders," Noseda said.