10/11/2009 11:00PM

Euros have little to fear in BC


NEW YORK - Given what European horses accomplished in last year's Breeders' Cup at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, there was already a strong sense that they might be even more formidable in this year's Cup at the same site. In case you forgot, here's what the Europeans did in last year's Breeders' Cup: Raven's Pass (13-1) and Henrythenavigator ran one-two in the Classic; Conduit (5-1) and Eagle Mountain ran one-two in the Turf; Goldikova (9-5) won the Mile; Donativum (5-1) and Westphalia ran one-two in the Juvenile Turf; and Muhannak (12-1) won the Marathon.

After the final round of major Breeders' Cup preps this past weekend, however, it is hard not to agree with the impression that European horsemen with eyes on the Breeders' Cup must now be salivating at their prospects. Can you blame them after a third-stringer like Gitano Hernando comes over and wins a race in the Goodwood that is a critical stepping-stone to the Classic?

The scary thing is, the Europeans this year don't have to restrict their imposing shadow to the races they had success in last year. Although they managed to win five of the 14 Breeders' Cup events last year, it was only slightly less surprising that Europeans didn't also win two other races that were seemingly invented for them, the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Turf Sprint. They have the potential to present anywhere from strong to overwhelming candidates for all seven of these races this year. And if they wanted, Europeans also could put forward imposing candidates in the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies as neither division in the United States has been particularly inspiring this year.

Imagine the fallout if European horses were to win nine of the 14 Breeders' Cup races. What would that say about the state of American racing? And would it say more about the state of American racing, or about what happens when you run two straight Breeders' Cups on a synthetic racing surface?

Anyway, here are a few impressions from some of the many important preps run over the weekend:

* Not to take anything away from Gitano Hernando's victory in the Goodwood, but that was an iffy bunch he turned back. Runner-up and beaten favorite Colonel John has been overrated forever. His last important win came 14 months ago in the 2008 Travers, and he wasn't even the best horse that day. As for Mine That Bird, who came up empty after a brief move on the turn, I know he has that good second in the Preakness, but at some point he's going to have to win another important race to prove that his win in the Kentucky Derby wasn't a fluke. Remember, he was 50-1 when he won the Derby. Richard's Kid, who finished a rallying third, is the one I would want out of the Goodwood. The Goodwood's nine furlongs was too short for him, but he still proved his 24-1 upset of the Pacific Classic was not an aberration.

* Zenyatta earned a mediocre 97 Beyer Speed Figure in extending her unbeaten string to 13 in Saturday's Lady's Secret at Oak Tree, but this was one of those rare instances when the figure honestly doesn't do the winner justice. This was the real good Zenyatta on Saturday. She really did only run about a sixteenth of a mile, and I liked how she did not lose complete contact with the field early.

* What happened in Sunday's Clement Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship might not mean much come Breeders' Cup time, considering who the Europeans can put forward in the Turf. But it was still nice to see Presious Passion win in more conventional front-running fashion. That should silence the skeptics who think he needs to resort to tricks like opening up a 20-length early lead to succeed.

* I was a little bit of a Discreetly Mine fan going into Saturday's Champagne at Belmont Park off his troubled trip second in last month's Futurity. But I am reassessing that now after the way he gave it up in the final furlong Saturday to Homeboykris, who hadn't raced since a maiden win at Calder in July and who was 5-1 in the Champagne instead of 15-1 only because he was first-time Rick Dutrow. And Dublin's flop at 3-5 in the Champagne was fitting with what the 2-year-old male division has (or hasn't) shown this year.

* Not sure which Breeders' Cup race, if any, Girolamo will be targeting. Not sure if owner Godolphin Racing is sure, either. But Girolamo, winner of Sunday's Jerome at Belmont, is a serious, serious horse.

* Taking nothing away from Noble's Promise's upset of Saturday's Dixiana Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, but this seemed like a race that if you ran it five times, you'd get five different winners. That said, two here caught my eye. Runner-up Aikenite is obvious. He really did finish like a colt with a bright future going long. The other is Stately Victor, and I say that not because I liked him in this race. That Stately Victor managed to finish as close as sixth and was beaten only 7 1/2 lengths is remarkable, considering the massive amount of ground he lost. He raced seven to eight wide around both turns.

* Is there a horse who better represents the gulf between dirt and synthetic-track racing than Fatal Bullet? In his start before Friday's Phoenix at Keeneland, Fatal Bullet stopped and was beaten almost 18 lengths on dirt in the Vanderbilt Handicap. That was almost a duplicate of his first and only other start on dirt, a 17-length loss in last year's Woody Stephens. But on Polytrack in the Phoenix, he was as game as can be in victory, improving his synthetic-track record to 9 wins and 2 seconds from 11 starts.

* Proviso absolutely deserved to come down in Sunday's Spinster at Keeneland. But I'm sorry, I'm not buying the spin that runner-up Mushka would have gotten up had Proviso not impeded her. I believe Proviso still would have finished first if she had kept a straight course.