10/23/2002 11:00PM

Getting to know the Europeans

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The Ballydoyle-Coolmore-O'Brien team arrived at Arlington Park on Tuesday with all guns loaded.

Aidan O'Brien's troops are either fully or partly owned by Susan Magnier, the partner of her husband, John Magnier, who owns Coolmore Stud. John Magnier is first and foremost a breeder, and intends to take full advantage of the value inherent in winning any Breeders' Cup race.

O'Brien will have seven runners spread over four races on Cup Day. His stable, Ballydoyle, showed that it is ready for the Breeders' Cup when Black Sam Bellamy, High Chaparral's rabbit in the Arc, won the 1 1/2-mile Group 1 Gran Premio del Jockey Club & Coppa d'Oro in Rome on Sunday. That same day, Spartacus, only seventh behind Hold That Tiger in the Group 1 Grand Criterium at Longchamp on Arc de Triomphe day, won the one-mile Group 1 Gran Criterium.

Classic

With O'Brien deciding on Tuesday evening that Rock of Gibraltar would run in the Mile after all, Hawk Wing is left as the only European in the Classic. A Woodman 3-year-old, Hawk Wing has always been considered by O'Brien to be the most talented horse in his stable, but Hawk Wing has managed only one Group 1 victory this year, and that in a subpar edition of the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes.

Second in the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, the Irish Champion Stakes, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Hawk Wing possibly would benefit from a change of surface to dirt. He stays 10 furlongs and his dam, La Lorgnette, was a winner of Canada's best race for 3-year-olds, the Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile dirt race.

Turf

High Chaparral may be O'Brien's best chance for a Cup victory this year. The winner of both the Epsom and Irish derbies, he was badly in need of the race when a game third in the Arc. A Sadler's Wells colt, High Chaparral will certainly improve off his Arc effort and appears to have a conditioning edge over his main rival, the Michael Stoute-trained Golan.

Golan was held out of the Arc because Coolmore holds a controlling interest in his breeding rights and they did not want him bumping heads with High Chaparral in the Arc. Golan might have had the conditioning edge on High Chaparral at Longchamp, but High Chaparral will have it in the Turf.

The winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes off an eight-month layoff, Golan was subsequently a narrow runner-up to Nayef in the 1 1/4-mile, 85-yard Juddmonte International on Aug. 20.

Just as High Chaparral was at a disadvantage coming into the Arc off a 14-week absence, Golan will be running in the Turf off an 11-week hiatus. Also working against him is the fact that no horse has ever come directly out of the Juddmonte International to win a Breeders' Cup race. In his favor are two factors: He won the King George off a lengthier layoff, and he has little more than High Chaparral to beat.

Juvenile

O'Brien has three running in the Juvenile, and all of them have a chance.

Hold That Tiger, a Storm Cat Colt, startled everyone with his amazing victory in the seven-furlong, Group 1 Grand Criterium. Still last of 14 at the eighth pole, he looped the field to catch pacesetting Le Vie dei Colori, who was not stopping. The clocker caught them in 12.50 seconds for the final eighth, and as Hold That Tiger was about seven lengths off the pace a furlong out, he probably finished in about 11.25 seconds.

A half-brother to Belmont Stakes and Super Derby winner Editor's Note, Hold That Tiger should be capable of getting nine furlongs at this stage, but he will have to lay closer to the pace in order to win a Grade 1 race in his first try on dirt.

So, too, will rich kid Van Nistelrooy. A $6.4 million yearling named after Manchester United's Dutch soccer star Ruud Van Nistelrooy, this Storm Cat colt is a half-brother to 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass winner Halory Hunter. He progressed slowly but surely to win the seven-furlong Group 2 Futurity Stakes, was caught late to be second in the Group 1 National Stakes over the same distance, then had a troubled trip when closing to be third in the one-mile Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes to subsequent Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes flop Al Jadeed.

Like Hold That Tiger, Van Nistelrooy should appreciate nine furlongs, but he must overcome some lazy habits that have gotten him into trouble at times.

The third O'Brien juvenile, Tomahawk, is just as much of a danger. Lightly raced and improving, the son of Seattle Slew has earned a pair of Timeform ratings better than anything achieved by his two better-known stablemates. Tomahawk got a 120 for the six-furlong Middle Park Stakes and a 120+ for the Dewhurst, although he finished second in both those races. By comparison, Hold That Tiger's best Timeform number is a 115+, Van Nistelrooy's a 111.

Filly and Mare Turf

Banks Hill was last year's hot pick, but she does not appear to be quite the same filly she was in 2001. Islington, however, could make fans forget Banks Hill in a hurry.

Islington, winner of the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, is by Sadler's Wells out of the Darshaan mare Hellenic. Like Golan, she is trained by Michael Stoute. Islington stayed on to be a game fifth in the Arc, but is probably best going the Filly and Mare Turf distance of 1 1/4 miles, as she showed when slamming a good field in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes on Aug. 3. She has been working well at Newmarket, and is the play of the day, if the ground is good to firm.

If it is soft, then Kazzia and Turtle Bow, one-two in the Flower Bowl Invitational on soft ground, move way up, as would Gossamer. Zenda, on the other hand, would stand little chance on soft ground.

The going is something that must be taken under consideration in this year's turf Cup races. A quick glance at the past performances of Gossamer and Zenda will reveal just how much Gossamer needs it soft, while Zenda must have it good to firm.

Mile

He has a wide draw in post 10 but it will also take a troubled trip for Rock of Gibraltar to be defeated in the Mile. The winner of seven consecutive Group 1 races, the last five at a mile, Rock of Gibraltar would be value at 7-5. He runs well on any kind of turf, although he is probably at his best on good to firm, and O'Brien is sure to have him primed off a seven-week absence.

Rock of Gibraltar did put in a strong work over Ascot's uphill mile on Sept. 28. He also managed to avoid the virus that plagued Ballydoyle this summer. Backing Rock of Gibraltar up, O'Brien will have a strong second stringer in Landseer.

Landseer, the French 2000 Guineas winner, didn't quite pan out when tried as a sprinter this summer, but he returned to form to beat Touch of the Blues and Beat Hollow in the Keeneland Turf Mile last time. He loves firm ground but, as he is rated four or five pounds inferior to his renowned stablemate in Europe, he has only a dark horse chance at best.

Dress to Thrill is getting little media attention, yet she has a solid upset chance. Undefeated in four starts at a mile this year, one of those vs. older fillies, one vs. older colts, the Dermot Weld trainee is one of the best value plays of the day on any type of ground.

Domedriver is basically a Group 2 type who may not be able to manage it at this level, while Medecis was behind Banks Hill, Domedriver, and Turtle Bow in the Prix Jacques le Marois, suggesting that he has his work cut out for him on Saturday.