11/04/2009 12:00AM

Foreign powers converge on Los Angeles


Nearly a week before they begin to load them into the gate for the Breeders' Cup, the score stands at Godolphin 15, Juddmonte 8, Coolmore 7. That is the number of horses three of the world's most powerful outfits will have in the world's richest two-day race meeting.

It stands to reason. The races are called the Breeders' Cup, after all. Juddmonte and Coolmore devote as much money and energy breeding as they do racing. Likewise Darley, Sheikh Mohammed's breeding operation that supplies Godolphin with many of its leading lights. Only Augustin Stables, George Strawbridge's international operation, comes close to competing with the Big Three in numbers. Augustin has five Cup runners.

Godolphin has always been considered a British-Dubaian operation, based from December to March at Al Quoz in the land ruled by Sheikh Mohammed, and at Newmarket, the cradle of horse racing, in England the remainder of the year. But nine of their 15 Cup runners are trained at Belmont Park. Richard Mettee is doing yeoman's work for "the boys in blue" despite the official credit going to Saeed bin Suroor, who works out of Godolphin's Newmarket headquarters. Mettee has engineered seven Grade 1 victories in America since August. Suroor has only three Group 1 wins in Europe during the same period, two of those in Italy.

Godolphin has introduced a new wrinkle this year, sending some horses to trainers other than Suroor. The Andre Fabre-trained Cavalryman finished third in the Arc for Godolphin, while Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle Justenuffhumor in the Mile.

The Godolphin-owned Mastery looks like the most secure investment of the weekend in the Marathon. A St. Leger winner who acts on synthetic surfaces, he is William Hill's 2-1 favorite. The Juddmonte-owned Father Time is Hill's 3-1 second choice, while Man of Iron, from Coolmore, is the 6-1 fourth choice.

First up on the Friday's Cup card, the Marathon is one of only two races in which Godolphin, Coolmore, and Juddmonte will go head-to-head-to-head. Fittingly, the climactic race on Saturday's card, the Classic, is the other.

Coolmore's Rip Van Winkle is Ladbrokes 5-4 Classic favorite followed by Zenyatta at 6-1. Hill sees them a bit closer with Rip Van Winkle 3-2 and Zenyatta 4-1. Godolphin has penciled in Regal Ransom and Girolamo as their first choices for the Classic, but will not make a decision between the big race and the Dirt Mile for them until after they work on the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface this week.

The Juddmonte-owned Twice Over makes a nice dark horse at 14-1 with Ladbrokes, but the Classic has been the target of John Magnier & Co. at Coolmore ever since Giant's Causeway lost out to Tiznow in a memorable stretch duel at Churchill Downs in 2000. Coolmore has since been seventh with Hawk Wing in 2002, fifth with Hold That Tiger in 2003, and 11th with Oratorio in 2005. In 2006 they were sixth with George Washington, who would sadly break down in the 2007 edition. Last year they came close again with Henrythenavigator, only to be beaten by European rival Raven's Pass.

That effort on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride has apparently whetted Coolmore's appetite for this year's Classic. They used a victory by Rip Van Winkle in the uphill mile of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes as a prep, just as Raven's Pass had last year. Rip Van Winkle may be surpassed only by Sea the Stars in this year's international pecking order. If that is the case, Coolmore should bag its first Classic title on Saturday.

Coolmore also has a strong chance in the Dirt Mile with Mastercraftsman, a two-time Group 1 winner at a mile on turf who was just a length behind Sea the Stars in the Juddmonte International and who won a Group 3 on the Dundalk Polytrack last time. Viscount Nelson in the Juvenile Turf and Lillie Langtry in the Juvenile Fillies Turf give Coolmore two more good chances of finding the winner's circle.

Along with the Aga Khan, Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms may be the most efficient breeding and racing operation in the world. With defending champ Ventura in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Midday in the Filly and Mare Turf, Proviso in the Ladies' Classic, Zacinto in the Mile, and Spanish Moon in the Turf, Juddmonte is in line for a small handful of Cup victories.

Historically, Godolphin, Coolmore, and Juddmonte are dead even with three Breeders' Cup victories apiece. That score will surely change after this weekend's results have been tabulated.