10/06/2008 12:00AM

Euros may be no-shows


The foreign contingent for the 2008 Breeders' Cup would be quite formidable if a good percentage of the best horses actually make the trip. But that is a big if.

With time running short, we already know that the undefeated 3-year-old filly Zarkava is not coming even after she weaved her way through 15 male rivals to win the $5.5 million Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp last Sunday.

Curlin may be the best 4-year-old male racehorse in the world, Big Brown the best 3-year-old male horse, and Zenyatta the best 4-year-old filly. But after Zarkava scored an overpowering victory in the Arc, she just might be the best turf horse of any age or sex on Earth. Too bad she will not be at Santa Anita to showcase her talents to an American audience.

Likewise, the Godolphin Racing-owned Tam Lin, winner of the Kelso at Belmont Park on Sept. 28, is likely to skip the $2 million BC Mile because, as Godolphin's American representative Richard Metee explained, he's a "Belmont turf course specialist," especially suited to "one-turn turf races."

Godolphin's 4-year-old turf filly Folk Opera is only 50-50 to run in the $2 million BC Filly and Mare Turf despite an effortless front-running victory in the $1 million E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 4. Godolphin may change its mind, but Folk Opera has been shipped back to France and no decision will be made for at least a week.

Godolphin also is on the fence about Cocoa Beach, a game upset winner over 2007 Eclipse Award-winning filly Ginger Punch in the Beldame at Belmont on Sept. 27. To run in the $2 million BC Ladies' Classic, Cocoa Beach must be supplemented at a cost of $180,000, and Godolphin already has high hopes for Music Note for that 1 1/8-mile race on the Pro-Ride surface.

Plans also are uncertain for two highly rated 4-year-old colts trained by Aidan O'Brien - Soldier of Fortune and Duke of Marmalade. Soldier of Fortune finished in a dead heat for third in the Arc, while Duke of Marmalade was a non-threatening seventh, although beaten less than four lengths.

Soldier of Fortune's respectable effort in just his third start of 2008 gives him license to be a serious prospect for the $3 million BC Turf. But Duke of Marmalade, considered a likely contender for the $5 million BC Classic prior to the Arc, may not make the trip to America after his flat performance, his worst in two years. European observers say that O'Brien now is wondering whether Duke of Marmalade might have gone over the top after five straight wins in Group 1 races.

O'Brien also has left in doubt his plan for the hard-hitting miler Henrythenavigator.

For most of the summer, Henrythenavigator was head and shoulders the best miler in Europe, and O'Brien seriously was considering an attempt to stretch him out for the 10-furlong BC Classic, reserving the $2 million BC Mile as a fall-back option. But, after his defeat by Raven's Pass in the recent Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, O'Brien has backed off and might now opt to give Henrythenavigator time to get his form back and point him for a race in Japan or Hong Kong in November or December. What worries O'Brien is the fact that Henrythenavigator had beaten Raven's Pass three straight times prior to his defeat in the QE II.

Raven's Pass is no sure thing to run in the BC Mile, even though British-based trainer John Gosden is quite familiar with the Santa Anita turf course.

Gosden worked in Southern California for the late great Charlie Whittingham during the early 1980s and won the first BC Mile at Hollywood Park in 1984 with the 4-year-old filly Royal Heroine. Ironically, Gosden's knowledge of the Santa Anita turf course may persuade him to skip the BC Mile in favor of the 1 1/4-mile BC Classic on synthetic Pro-Ride. When interviewed by European-based reporters after the QE II, Gosden expressed fear of a "full field on the tight-turning Santa Anita course," citing potential traffic problems and excessively wide trips for horses with outer post positions.

Gosden also trains the unbeaten 2-year-old filly Rainbow View, who won a spot in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf through her latest triumph in the Win and You're In Moon Valley Stakes at Ascot last month. But, Gosden and owner George Strawbridge have not decided whether she will come to America for the Oct. 24 BC race.

Marchand d'Or, considered the best sprinter in Europe and winner of the Prix de l'Abbaye on the Arc card Sunday, is unlikely to compete in the $1 million BC Turf Sprint on the downhill course at 6 1/2 furlongs, or the six-furlong, $2 million BC Sprint on Pro-Ride.

While all of the above European connections will make final Breeders' Cup decisions by pre-entry time on Oct. 14, several other foreign-based horses are considered probable starters in various BC races.

Among them is Winchester, a most impressive winner over somewhat suspect Group 1 types in the Secretariat Stakes on the Arlington Million card, Aug. 9. While trainer Dermot Weld is not sure if his prized 3-year-old belongs in the 1 1/2-mile BC Turf or the BC Mile, Weld should not be taken lightly with a horse that won the Secretariat in faster time than Spirit One needed to win the Arlington Million. Weld has shown an expert's touch with numerous American invaders through the years.

Other intriguing Euros with top-flight BC credentials include Lady Marian, winner of Prix de l'Opera on the Arc card, and Goldikova, who defeated Henrythenavigator in the one-mile Prix du Moulin at Longchamp last month. Both Lady Marian and Goldikova may go in the 1 1/4-mile $2 million BC Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 24, while previously unbeaten Vision d'Etat, who was fifth in the Arc, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, may go in the BC Turf, pending how he came out of that tough French classic.

There are also two talented Euros - Red Rocks and Square Eddie - that have been transferred to American trainers.

Red Rocks, winner of the 2006 BC Turf and the 2008 Man o' War Stakes over 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, now is being trained for the 2008 BC Turf by New York-based Mark Hennig. Should Aidan O'Brien decide to keep his top horses home, Red Rocks might even be the betting favorite.

The 2-year-old Square Eddie looked stronger and more professional than any 2-year-old seen in America to date when he won the $500,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday. Trained by John R. Best through four races in England, American-based J. Paul Reddam bought the son of Smart Strike after his second-place finish in a Group 2 race in England on Sept. 6 and has turned Square Eddie over to Southern California trainer Doug O'Neill for the BC Juvenile.

Beyond the Euro invaders, horseplayers also should keep an eye on the several good horses shipping in from Canada as well as the Japanese-based Casino Drive, who already is in California training for the BC Classic.