08/09/2001 11:00PM

Assessing the Euro threat


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Europeans know which Americans to fear: Bienamado, Hap, and White Heart in the Million, and Astra in the Beverly D. But, do the Americans know which Europeans to fear?

As of Friday, eight European-based horses were bound for Arlington's Aug. 18 International Festival of Racing - the Million, Beverly D., and Secretariat, Grade 1 races worth a combined $2.1 million. The invasion begins this weekend, with the first Europeans scheduled to begin their journey on Saturday evening. How strong are they?

"I'll go out on a limb for you," said Alastair Donald of the International Racing Bureau in England. "I would be disappointed if we weren't on the board in all three races and if we didn't win at least one."

Four Europeans are likely to show up on the list of Million pre-entries, which will be released Saturday. Pre-entries are accepted until midnight Friday at a cost of $5,000. One American horse on the fence for the race, the California-based Redattore, was pre-entered earlier on Friday. His presence, and that of Bienamado, ensures a lively pace in the Million, something that Donald says the European horses need if they are to run their best.

Over the years, the international flavor of the International Festival has varied in intensity. As few as four horses and as many as 11 have traveled to Arlington. Europeans have gone 1 for 24 in the Secretariat, 2 for 11 in the Beverly D., and 4 for 18 in the Million.

Their best chances this year come with Silvano in the Million and with Mizzen Mast, one of three horses coming for the Secretariat. Analyser, under consideration for the Secretariat, was withdrawn Friday. Only Di Moi Oui will run in the Beverly D.

Donald believes Silvano can compete with the best Americans in the Million - Bienamado, Hap and White Heart. King Cugat, who like Hap is trained by Bill Mott, cropped up as another top American starter when rain hit Saratoga on Friday. If the turf there is soft Saturday, Mott could scratch King Cugat from the Sword Dancer Handicap and redirect him to the Million. King Cugat finished second in the Secretariat last year.

"Bienamado we know, since he started his career over here with trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam," Donald said. "When evaluating the Americans from here, we're looking at Bienamado, Hap, and White Heart."

Donald suggested that Caitano, Muakaad, and Compton Bolter should not be dismissed in the Million, but called Silvano a "top-class horse. I see no reason that he can't win the race."

A lightly raced 5-year-old, Silvano usually trains in Bremen, Germany, with Andreas Wohler, but has not raced in Europe since last June. His last five starts, three of them Group 1's, have come in rich races in the Far East and in Dubai, where he won more than $1.3 million this year.

Said Wohler: "The thing was, we planned on the one race in March," the Singapore Cup at Kranji Race Couse in Singapore, "but then we just carried on. The more he traveled, the better he seemed to travel."

Silvano won the Singapore Cup by five lengths, shipped to Dubai for the Dubai Sheema Classic, then traveled back to Hong Kong and stopped once more for another race in Singapore before returning to Germany late this spring. His biggest win came in Hong Kong, where he won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

"He got a big rest after his last start," Wohler said. "He went to the farm, but now he is back in training and in form. If he does well in Chicago, then he could race once in New York" before returning to Europe.

It's possible that all three of the horses bound for the Secretariat will stay in the U.S. after the race. Mizzen Mast, the property of Juddmonte Farm, is definitely staying and will go to trainer Bobby Frankel. For now, Mizzen Mast trains with Criquette Head-Maarek, who has won one Festival race, the Beverly D. with Hatoof, and finished second in the 1994 Secretariat with Dare and Go.

"Mizzen Mast hasn't won a Group 1 yet," Head-Maarek said from her office Friday, "but he's a nice horse. I could compare him to Dare and Go - he's that kind of animal."

Mizzen Mast is coming to this country mainly because he does not like the soft ground prevalent in Europe. "He hasn't raced much yet because of the ground," Head-Maarek said. "He likes hard ground."

Mizzen Mast has raced only six times: Two starts on wet turf were disasters, but he has won twice and placed twice on firm and good turf, including a good second June 26 in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at 10 furlongs, the Secretariat distance. Mizzen Mast generally has raced on the lead, but Head-Maarek attributes that to the lack of pace in many European races. Mizzen Mast is will arrive here this weekend, and Jerry Bailey already has been lined up to ride the colt.