10/24/2008 12:00AM

This BC looks like a foreigners’ affair


With 29 European-trained horses and one Japanese-trained horse in a Breeders’ Cup in which Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface should prove much more conducive to the invaders than dirt, it is entirely possible that foreigners could win as many as six or seven Cup races this weekend.

The reasons behind their best chances on Saturday’s card follow.

Marathon: The 2006 St. Leger winner Sixties Icon is an in-form, six-time group-race winner between 1?1/2 miles and 1 3/4 miles. Trained by ex-Southern California trainer Jeremy Noseda, he will stay the distance, and his class edge makes him one of the day’s safest investments. Handicapper Muhannak is a Polytrack specialist, but from a much lower order than Sixties Icon. At his best he is a mild threat for third.

Turf Sprint: Can Noseda take two Cup races in a row? It could happen if the lightly raced Fleeting Spirit breaks alertly like she had been doing last year. She has been knocking heads with Europe’s best sprinters, and as America’s best will be going in the BC Sprint, she has a very good chance here. She will like the firm ground and will be running late. Diabolical finally ran a good race last time when second in the Diadem Stakes, but that Group 2 lacked the cachet of the Group 1’s in which he had been getting swamped. He will appreciate the fast pace but is probably three or four lengths better on dirt.

Only Answer prefers five furlongs and has two to four lengths to make up with Fleeting Spirit on a line through European champion sprinter Marchand d’Or.

Dirt Mile: Do not discount old vet Lord Admiral, a genuine Group 2 turf miler who is dropping down in class in a suspect field after a sharp effort in the Shadwell Turf Mile. Owned by the great Vincent O’Brien, who engineered Royal Academy’s BC Mile victory in 1990, Lord Admiral’s wide post may be the biggest obstacle preventing the 91-year-old owner from taking a curtain call.

Mile: The rider of Miesque in both of her Mile victories, Freddie Head could become the first man to both ride and train a Breeders’ Cup winner with Goldikova. The winner of three straight, the last versus older colts in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, Goldikova had previously been close up to Arc de Triomphe winner Zarkava in both the French 1000 Guineas and the French Oaks. Possessed of tracking speed and with an advantageous draw in four, she and big-race specialist Olivier Peslier should be in perfect position all the way around.

Juvenile: Bushranger’s chances of victory were compromised when he drew wide in post 12. Jockey Johnny Murtagh will have to use the Danetime colt early to achieve a good early position. If he can be fourth or fifth around the first turn, this two-time Group 1 winner will then be tested for stamina, as he is bred to stay no farther than seven furlongs. Square Eddie, switched from trainer John Best to Doug O’Neill after his scorching win in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity, is perhaps more dangerous. Discount talk of a “Euro bounce,” as he ran much the same race at Keeneland as he did when second in a Kempton Group 3 on Polytrack his previous start.

Juvenile Turf: Forget Westphalia’s dull effort two back in the Curragh’s Futurity Stakes. Heavy ground in Europe translates to “off the turf for a week” in America, and Westphalia hated it. He returned with a sharp score in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes, an effort much superior to anything produced by any of his American rivals in their suspect Grade 3 turf stakes. Paddy the Pro has been slamming inferior types on the Dundalk Polytrack and gets his acid test here.

Donativum improved greatly after a midsummer break and picks up the invaluable services of jockey Frankie Dettori. A John Gosden-trained half-brother to Grade 2 La Jolla winner Worldly, Donativum would be no surprise.

Turf: Although he drew wide in post 11, Eagle Mountain is the selection. Trained by the masterful Mike de Kock, he was just a cut below Europe’s best middle-distance performers last year, after which he was sold to Sheikh Mohammed’s cousin, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al-Maktoum. He broke his pelvis in Dubai this winter, but returned to win a Newmarket Group 3 at a mile on Oct. 3. That should set him up perfectly for a return to 1 1/2 miles.

Rested after the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on June 29, Soldier of Fortune appears to have used his fine Arc third as a prep for the Turf. Fit and freshened, the Aidan O’Brien-trained son of Galileo is in an ideal position to wins as the favorite. This year’s St. Leger winner, Conduit, is a classy son of Arc winner Dalakhani who must prove that a St. Leger winner can cut back from 1 3/4 miles, 166 yards to win at 1?1/2 miles, something even Nijinsky didn’t succeed at in his Arc. Winchester beat nothing in the Secretariat, has not run since, and flopped in his two European tries at 1?1/2 miles.

Classic: Casino Drive was bred to be great, and while he is the least experienced horse in the field, he may be the most talented. A half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Rags to Riches and Jazil, his Peter Pan victory in May is much underrated as it came off a three-month layoff and a 7,000-mile journey in just his second career start. Deprived of a chance to run in the Belmont Stakes due to a foot bruise, he returned to win an allowance on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita off a five-month absence. For the first time in his life he will be running with a tightener under his belt and possesses something Curlin doesn’t – a race over the track.

Duke of Marmalade’s best distance is 1 1/4 miles and he should have no problem with Pro-Ride, but he is cutting back in distance after a so-so seventh in the Arc. Henrythenavigator has a better chance than his Aidan O’Brien-trained stablemate. An excellent four-time Group 1-winning miler, he is by Kingmambo out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, should appreciate the extra two furlongs, and has been pointing to this race since June.

Raven’s Pass beat Henrythenavigator in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes but is bred for a mile and looks like an underlay. As for Curlin, a one-paced galloper of high caliber, he has not faced a genuine Grade 1 horse all year and was beaten by the Group 2 type Red Rocks in the Man o’ War. At least one of the foreign invaders should outfinish him.