08/11/2008 12:00AM

Europeans likely to return this fall

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Four-Footed Fotos
The France-based Spirit One (far right), under Ioritz Mendizabal, was victorious in the Arlington Million.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - One hears a lot of talk about the supposed superiority of European turf horses to their U.S.-based counterparts - and boy, was that stark fact ever on display Saturday at Arlington.

For the first time in 26 editions of the Arlington Million, European shippers swept the top three placings in the race, with Spirit One, an unheralded French horse, holding off a desperate late bid from heavily favored Archipenko to win. Mount Nelson, second choice in the race, finished third, with Silverfoot leading the American contingent in fourth.

More of the same in the Secretariat, where Ireland-based Winchester turned in a dazzling performance, beating another Irish shipper, Plan, by more than seven lengths. In the Beverly D., 50-1 French shipper Toque de Queda finished third behind Mauralakana, who trains in New York with Christophe Clement but was bred in France and raced there at 2 and 3.

We may see several of these overseas horses again. Plan is staying in the U.S., and will be trained now by Rick Dutrow, and the horse who crushed him, Winchester, could well be back for the Breeders' Cup Turf. Winchester was to return to Ireland on Wednesday, but he ran far better in his U.S. debut than he had in five previous overseas races, and is owned by Americans Bertram and Diana Firestone. Winchester, in fact, was nothing short of spectacular winning for just the second time in his career and capturing his first stakes race. His 1 1/4-mile time of 2:01.76 was .41 of a second faster than Spirit One's time in the Million, and that despite the Secretariat's slower pace. The first six furlongs of the Secretariat went in 1:13.84 compared with 1:12.40 in the Million, but Winchester scorched his fourth quarter - around the far turn - in 23 seconds and change compared with Spirit One's 25-second fourth quarter-mile. The race was over at the top of the stretch, but Winchester still turned in a final quarter faster than the older horses in the Million.

Winchester raced with Lasix and blinkers for the first time, but Weld said afterward he didn't believe Lasix had played a major role. More important, Weld thought, was Winchester turning back to 1 1/4 miles after failing in a pair of 1 1/2-mile races earlier this summer.

"I made a mistake running him in the Irish Derby last time," Weld said.

With the Million being a Breeders' Cup Challenge race, Spirit One earned a berth in the BC Turf, and his connections, trainer Philippe Demercastel and owner Kamel Chehboub, said they would consider the race despite the fact the horse would have to be supplemented.

Spirit One had been competitive in some Group 1's, but had only a Group 3 win as his highest accomplishment. Spirit One has speed, and his connections believe he can get 1 1/2 miles in the U.S. Spirit One returns to France this week with no specific target for his next race.

De Kock has at least one Cup horse

Both jockey Kevin Shea and trainer Mike de Kock adamantly felt they had the best horse in the Million, with favored Archipenko, a tough-luck three-quarters of a length loser to Spirit One. Both men came out of the race strongly believing that Johnny Murtagh on eventual third-place finisher Mount Nelson had intentionally kept Archipenko pinned on the rail for the entire stretch run.

"I know it's not a place for sissies, but at the end of the day, we were kept in by a horse that had no chance to win," de Kock said.

Murtagh has ridden for de Kock many times, and actually rode Archipenko in his first start last winter in Dubai, suggesting after the race that de Kock equip the horse with blinkers. Murtagh rode Mount Nelson for trainer Aidan O'Brien, who was Archipenko's trainer in 2006 and 2007 before the horse was sold privately and turned over to de Kock.

Archipenko will return to England, and could race next in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, but de Kock said the colt might well be back for a Breeders' Cup race this fall. De Kock said he also is pointing Honour Devil, unraced since easily winning the UAE Derby in March, for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, which will be contested on a synthetic track at Santa Anita.

Mauralakana's options are open

Mauralakana's comfortable Beverly D. victory was just another chapter in an excellent season that her connections hope will end with success in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Mauralakana calmly rallied to a 1 1/2-length victory in the Beverly D., her fifth win in six starts this season. She arrived back at trainer Christophe Clement's barn Monday afternoon, and appeared to have come out of the race in good order, Clement said.

Mauralakana will make one start before the BC, but Clement was unsure whether that would come in the Flower Bowl at Belmont or the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita. Clement was heartened to see Mauralakana carry her form from Belmont to Arlington, and win on her fourth different grass course this year.

"She's been adapting like a very, very nice horse," Clement said.

Trainer Rusty Arnold also expressed satisfaction with Communique's second-place finish in the Beverly D. There are no set plans for Communique, but Arnold mentioned both the Flower Bowl and the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine as possibilities.