10/10/2005 11:00PM

In Classic or Turf, Bago will be dangerous


LAS VEGAS - Bago will be cross-entered in the Breeders' Cup Turf and Breeders' Cup Classic, but his connections may now be leaning toward the Turf after Hurricane Run, winner of the Arc and the best 3-year-old in Europe, was declared from the Turf because of a cough.

Bago, 4, was an undefeated champion at 2 and a champion at 3 in France. He was briefly considered for the Classic last year after his victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but the plan all along was to bring Bago over to the U.S. as a stronger, mature 4-year-old.

Bago has an enviable record, having won five Group 1 stakes. He won his 4-year-old debut, the Prix Ganay, but was less than brilliant placing in three starts before finishing third in this year's Arc. The Arc was his first start since July, and he may be in peak form for the Breeders' Cup.

Bago arguably has the most enviable pedigree in the world. He is by Nashwan (by Blushing Groom), a 3-year-old champion in England and France who has sired winners on all surfaces. In addition to Bago, Nashwan's best runners include Wandesta, a U.S. champion turf female; One So Wonderful, champion older female in England and Ireland; Myself, champion older female in England; Najah, champion 3-year-old in Italy; Nashatara, champion older female in Italy; and Swain, a champion at 5 in England and champion at 6 in England and Ireland.

Bago is out of the unraced Moonlight's Box, who is a multiple RF (Rasmussen Factor). Moonlight's Box is inbred to Natalma, through her son Northern Dancer and prolific daughter Raise the Standard. Moonlight's Box is also inbred to Almahmoud, the dam of Natalma and Cosmah, three times. The Rasmussen Factor - inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals - particularly regarding Almahmoud and her daughters, has proven to be a powerful indicator of high class.

Bago's second dam, Coup de Genie, was a champion at 2 in France and finished fourth in the 1993 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in a star-studded field that included Phone Chatter, Sardula, and Heavenly Prize. A full sister to the late champion French juvenile and international sire Machiavellian, Coup de Genie has been a stakes-producing machine. Her foals include Denebola, a champion 2-year-old filly in France; stakes winners Snake Mountain, Glia, and Loving Kindness; and Moonlight's Box. Coup de Genie is out of stakes winner Coup de Folie, an example of a blue hen.

Coup de Folie's sire, Halo, and dam, Raise the Standard, descend to Almahmoud, and this intense duplication of an influential broodmare resulted in Coup de Folie's ascent as a modern-day La Troienne.

In addition to producing two champions, Coup de Genie and Machiavellian, Coup de Folie is also the dam of stakes winners Exit to Nowhere, Ocean of Wisdom, and Hydro Calido. Coup de Folie is also the dam of stakes-placed Fomalhaut and the unraced Salchow, the dam of Way of Light, who was a 2-year-old champion in France.

Bago's fourth dam, Raise the Standard (Hoist the Flag), was a half-sister to Northern Dancer. In addition to Coup de Folie, Raise the Standard produced Bonita Francita (Devil's Bag), a three-quarter sister to Coup de Folie.

As a broodmare, Bonita Francita was as valuable as other female members of this family, producing Orpen, a champion at 2 in Ireland; the late stakes winner and sire Jules; stakes winner Etterby Park; and Black Penny, the dam of Dubai Poule d'Essai des Pouliches winner Bluemamba.

So will Bago run in the Turf or Classic?

Bago is a proven Grade 1 champion on turf, and the defection of Hurricane Run increases his chances in the Turf. The Turf, however, just may be the most competitive of all Breeders' Cup races this year, with such European standouts as Azamour, Motivator, and Powerscourt, not to mention perhaps the leading U.S. turf horse, Shakespeare.

The Classic presents a different set of problems. While some Europeans have performed well in their first start on dirt in the Classic - including Arcangues, Giant's Causeway, Sakhee, Swain, Jolypha, Ibn Bey - other European stars have failed on dirt, among them Galileo, Black Minnaloushe, Halling, Grand Lodge, Dernier Empereur, and Rodrigo de Triano.

Swain proved that a son of Nashwan could perform at the highest level on dirt. Swain appeared headed to victory in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic but bore out badly in late stretch under Frankie Dettori's repeated left-handed whipping and finished a half-length and a neck behind Awesome Again and Silver Charm.

But Swain had more dirt influences in his pedigree than Bago. Swain's first two damsires, Key to the Mint and Quadrangle, were classic American dirt winners, whereas Bago's damsire is Nureyev, whose brilliance was primarily as a grass influence. No matter how good the Europeans are, they are still trying a new surface for the first time against experienced dirt runners.

Even without Ghostzapper, Afleet Alex, and a host of retired or injured American stars, Bago faces a daunting task against the likes of an in-form Rock Hard Ten, Saint Liam, and especially Oratorio, who has developed into Europe's top older horse this year.

In a tough field, Bago is my choice if he runs in the Turf. He is less certain on dirt, but I would still include him on all my tickets if he goes in the Classic.