11/09/2001 12:00AM

Cup woes: TV exposure, foreign scheduling

Email

NEW YORK - The fallout from the highly successful Belmont Park Breeders' Cup three weeks ago has not been entirely rosy.

It seems that Breeders' Cups at New York Racing Association tracks are always artistic successes, but there are two thorns that leave one's sides aching.

The first is the record low television ratings. They were so far down the scale this year that they put the Breeders' Cup in the same class, TV-wise, as events like strongman competitions and ballroom dancing.

Cup ratings are destined to fall even lower unless NTRA officials manage to get their product on network television every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. Until then, NBC will continue to experience bad news with the Breeders' Cup.

Imagine a national network televising the Super Bowl after having only shown three or four NFL games during the course of the season. Very few viewers would tune in, yet that is the policy NBC is employing with racing's greatest day. As a result, they are cheating both themselves and racing.

There was also some dissonance concerning the Cup's future schedule coming from Newmarket. Officials at the English racetrack are miffed that NTRA/ Breeders' Cup officials did not consult them about what they call a "unilateral decision" to hold the Cup on the last Saturday in October for the foreseeable future.

Newmarket is upset because the Breeders' Cup is now run just a week after their prestigious Champions Day Meeting.

The Classic lured Sakhee away from the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes this year. In the past, when there were two or three weeks between Champions Day and the Breeders' Cup, horses could use the Champion Stakes as a prep for either the Classic or the Turf. They could also use the seven-furlong Challenge Stakes as a prep for the Mile. Now they must choose one race or the other.

But that is a problem all of the world's autumn international race meetings must deal with. The Japan Cup will pick up Breeders' Cup Turf absentee Golan, while the Japan Cup Dirt has scored a coup by securing the presence of Lido Palace, whose owners, the Amermans, wisely decided against paying an $800,000 supplemental fee to get their Chilean-bred into the Classic.

Lido Palace would appear to have his rivals in the 1 5/16-mile Dirt on Nov. 24 over a barrel. His appearance in Tokyo was necessary for the race to deserve its new Grade 1 status in just its second running.

Niall O'Callaghan will challenge the Woodward winner with Generous Rosi, who was granted a new lease on life when switched to dirt.

Generous Rosi, a 6-year-old by Generous, was as consistent as they come in Britain, but went badly off form after having won the Gordon Richards Stakes and finished second to Chester House in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes in the spring of 1999.

After 14 consecutive losing efforts on turf in England and America, O'Callaghan made the same late change that transformed the careers of Cigar and Skimming.

"Desperation" was the reason O'Callaghan gave as the reason for the switch, which has resulted in a Grade 3 victory and a Grade 1

placing.

Dig For It has also been invited to the Japan Cup Dirt by the Japan Racing Association (JRA) along with Aeskulap, trained by Hans Blume in Germany, and King of Tara, trained by Francois Doumen in France. Those last two will be making their debuts on dirt.

The JRA's centerpiece Japan Cup has attracted the attention of four American raiders. Bobby Frankel made the decision to go with Timboroa after Fantastic Light was retired. The Breeders' Cup Turf third will also have Milan out of the way as Aidan O'Brien has decided to put his St. Leger winner away for the winter.

Cagney, With Anticipation, and White Heart are expected to join Timboroa. Europe will be represented by Golan, winner of the

2000 Guineas at a mile and subsequently second to Galileo in the Epsom Derby and fourth to Sakhee in the Arc. Paolini, a solid runner-up in the Canadian International to

BC Turf flop Mutamam, completes the European contingent.

Hong Kong's leading trainer Ivan Allan will send his 8-year-old gelding Indigenous to the Japan Cup. Indigenous nearly gave a Hong Kong-based horse its biggest victory ever in the 1999 renewal when he was second to Special Week, but this year's Japan Cup will have a very strong home defense with T.M. Opera O and Meisho Doto leading the way.

Those two finished first and second in last year's race with the redoubtable Fantastic Light third. They will be joined by Fantastic Light's Dubai Sheema Classic conqueror Stay Gold, as well as by Agnes Digital.

A Kentucky-bred son of Crafty Prospector, Agnes Digital beat T.M. Opera O and Meisho Doto at 19-1 in the Grade 1 Autumn Tenno Sho going 1 1/4 miles at Tokyo on

Oct. 28. Those three will give the foreign invaders reason for doubt on Japan Cup day, Nov. 25.