11/06/2009 12:00AM

Conduit sitting on a big race for defense

Barbara D. Livingston
Conduit, training earlier this week at Santa Anita, will be looking for a second straight victory in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Conduit returns to the scene of his greatest international triumph at Santa Anita on Saturday when he defends his title in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf, a race in which he paid $13.60 last year as the somewhat under-the-radar winner of the St. Leger Stakes.

The story is different this year. The Michael Stoute-trained son of Arc winner Dalakhani arrives in Southern California with a victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a race that rates as the second best 1 1/2-mile race in Europe after the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, in which Conduit finished fourth behind the incomparable Sea the Stars.

But if you take Sea the Stars out of the Arc, Conduit was beaten just two heads for all the money off a 10-week absence following his King George triumph. All the signs seem to indicate that the 4-year-old is sitting on a big race.

Sitting on him Saturday will be regular rider Ryan Moore, who has chosen to remain with Conduit instead of his stablemate Spanish Moon.

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Spanish Moon, a 5-year-old son of El Prado, goes in the Turf as the freshest horse in the race, with just three 2009 starts. He has won a pair of 12-furlong races in France this summer - the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on June 28 and, 11 weeks later, the Group 2 Prix Foy. He defeated two-time Group 1 winner Vision d'Etat in the Prix Foy, the Arc prep for older horses.

Kieren Fallon takes the ride on Spanish Moon, who has been running in France this year because he is banned in Britain. Having refused to enter the gate at least twice, Spanish Moon was hit with a six-month suspension, necessitating his French exile.

But once in the gate, Spanish Moon has no trouble getting out of it, so Stoute does not foresee any problems Saturday.

If Conduit or Spanish Moon should falter, a third British horse is there to pick up the pieces.

Dar Re Mi came perilously close to completing a Group 1 triple on Sept. 13 at Longchamp. She crossed the line first in the 1 1/2-mile Prix Vermeille, only to be disqualified by the French stewards in favor of French Oaks winner Stacelita. The 4-year-old daughter of Singspiel, trained by John Gosden for "Cats" composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, had previously won the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and the Group 1 Pretty Polly at the Curragh. She finished a length behind Conduit when fifth in the Arc. Frankie Dettori replaces Jimmy Fortune in a significant rider change that should encourage her supporters.

A fourth British runner, Red Rocks, has fallen on hard times of late. Famous for his victory in the 2006 Turf as well as for his comprehensive defeat of Curlin in last year's Man o' War, the Galileo 6-year-old spent a fruitless year with Mark Hennig but is now back with Brian Meehan, the man who engineered his two big wins. However, Red Rocks is well off form and will be bidding the racetrack goodbye after his Saturday outing.

Presious Passion is the lone American with a viable chance of beating the British Big 3, but his style of running hurts him. It may be possible to beat the Grade 2 types he was thrashing in the United Nations and the Clement Hirsch, but the likes of Conduit, Spanish Moon, and Dar Re Mi are sure to rein him in off his long early lead, perhaps even easier than Gio Ponti did when Presious Passion faded to finish eighth in the Arlington Million.

Telling has a victory in Saratoga's 1 1/2-mile, Grade 1 Sword Dancer to his credit but he is taking a considerable step up in class here.



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