11/02/2006 12:00AM

A home away from home for Europeans


As a Breeders' Cup venue, Churchill Downs has been kind to European invaders. They have racked up 7 victories in the five previous Cups held there with 3 seconds and 6 thirds. Among their winners are the high-profile names of Miesque and Arazi. Among their placed horses are the equally recognizable Hatoof, Swain, and Giant's Causeway.

Sixteen European-trained horses will line up Saturday for five Cup races, with the Juvenile, Sprint, and Distaff the three without a foreign invader. More important, however, than the number of foreign-trained winners at this stage in racing's international development is the number of foreign-owned Cup winners. Foreigners are in line to win as many as seven Breeders' Cup races on Saturday.

Juvenile Fillies

Even with her dirt pedigree - she is by Officer out of a Danzig Connection mare - Satulagi faces a tough task. A notoriously slow starter, she will have to find her way through a large field. Reportedly tough as nails, she should be running late, but a first-five finish does not appear to be in the cards for a filly whose best win came three back in an Ascot listed race.

Filly and Mare Turf

Ouija Board is the one to beat in this 1 3/8-mile renewal. She won it the last time it was run at this distance two years ago at Lone Star Park and was a determined second when she was in need of a race going 1 1/4 miles at Belmont last year. Having had seven starts in 2006, she is more seasoned this time around, but trainer Ed Dunlop has her arriving in Louisville a fresh horse. Her last two efforts going 10 furlongs - when she outdueled Alexander Goldrun in the Nassau Stakes and just failed against Dylan Thomas in the Irish Champion - were outstanding. This step back up to 11 furlongs and a return to female company speak volumes about her chances.

Satwa Queen has been pointing to this race for most of the year. In her Deauville return two back in the Group 2 Prix Jean Romanet, she beat a pair of Group 1 winners in Sweet Stream and Red Bloom, then improved on that effort when she finished between the two best 3-year-old fillies in Europe, Mandesha and Alexandrova, in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera. She acts on any ground but would move up on soft, over which Ouija Board and Wait a While are suspect.

Germance would also prefer soft ground, but, consistent as she is, she will be stepping up in class here. While she was a bit unlucky in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, her second-place finish in the French Oaks came against a subpar field, and she has never faced the likes of Ouija Board, Wait a While, or Satwa Queen.


Seven Europeans have squeezed their way into the Mile, but the big story here is the absence of George Washington, Europe's premier miler, who will goes in the Classic instead. Two of the seven hail from George Washington's Ballydoyle yard, which operates under the expert tutelage of Aidan O'Brien.

The inconsistent Ad Valorem has not come close to repeating his fine win in Royal Ascot's Queen Anne Stakes in June. Though relatively fresh, he was beaten last time in the Woodbine Mile by a Becrux and a Rebel Rebel who would be decided longshots had they been entered in the Mile.

Despite his Group1 and Grade 1 victories in the French 2000 Guineas and the Shadwell Mile, Aussie Rules is not absolutely first-class. At his best, Aussie Rules rates about 10 lengths behind George Washington.

Balldoyle's arch rivals at Godolphin Racing will go with Librettist and Echo of Light in the Mile. A Calumet Farm Kentucky-bred by Danzig, Librettist could win this on his best, which he showed when he swept this summer's weight-for-age miles in France - the Prix Jacques le Marois and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp - races in which he left Aussie Rules and Ad Valorem well behind. Librettist never does more than is necessary, but this Mile may require more speed than he is used to.

Frankie Dettori's decision to ride Echo of Light is an indication that Godolphin considers that son of Dubai Millennium to be more progressive at this stage. His Timeform ratings are comparable to those of his rivals, but he was beaten by Rob Roy, Aussie Rules, and Araafa three back in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes. He looked brilliant in his last two against lesser and is certainly on the improve. He does, however, have temperament problems that he may not yet have overcome.

Rob Roy split the redoubtable pair of Pride and Hurricane Run in the Champion Stakes last time, but is dropping back from 1 1/4 miles. A Group 2 winner going a mile against much lesser in April, he did finish in front of Aussie Rules, Araafa, and Echo of Light when he was third in the Sussex, but may lack the necessary speed.

Araafa is the closest thing on paper to George Washington in the Mile. He beat George Washington in the Irish 2000 Guineas and would have won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in most non-George Washington years. A repeat of his QEII second and a clean trip - always a problem in the Mile - would earn him the victory.

Sleeping Indian could be his most feared rival. A son of Indian Ridge - bred and owned by George Strawbridge and trained by John Gosden - Sleeping Indian has plenty of gas in the tank, having had just 11 outings in four years of training, and only three this year. Forget his Prix de la Foret two back when he was hopelessly boxed in through the three-furlong stretch. Possessed of tactical speed, he appears to be on the brink of a career best and might be the value play.


Hurricane Run has been something of an enigma of late. The world's highest-rated horse a year ago, he has lost 4 of his 6 starts this season, living up to his reputation only when he won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. Yet even in that he had to struggle.

That said, he is still the class of the Turf field, in no small part because of the suspect nature of the American entries. If Go Deputy is a nose behind Collier Hill, Hurricane Run has little to fear from him. Cacique was a low-end Group 2 type in France who is unlikely to stay 12 furlongs. English Channel is the same horse as Cacique with a bit more stamina. If Hurricane Run, who has been facing better horses throughout his career, has not gone completely off the bubble, he will be difficult to beat in a return to his favorite distance. A little rain would enhance his chances.

Red Rocks is a second-tier middle-distance horse in Europe even among 3-year-olds. Although he was just 2 lengths behind Rail Link in the Grand Prix de Paris, Rail Link has since improved to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe while Red Rocks has failed to win in two subsequent starts against lesser.

Scorpion, who set a track record on Longchamp's 1 1/2-mile Arc course when he won last year's Grand Prix de Paris, poses a real threat despite his season-opening loss in a listed race on Oct. 8. Like Hurricane Run, Scorpion is a son of Montjeu, a stallion who has emerged as a prime source of 12-furlong winners at the highest level. Scorpion is at his best on good to firm ground and could be sitting on a big race. The horse he beat by six lengths into third in last year's St. Leger, Tawqeet, beat a good international field in Australia on Oct. 21 when he won the 1 1/2-mile Group 1 Caulfield Cup. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Scorpion is the selection to defeat a Hurricane Run who is not quite what he was.


Welcome to the only race on the Breeders' Cup card that is truly a world championship. The winner of the Classic will almost surely be declared the world's best horse on dirt, and may even qualify as the world's highest-rated horse on any surface.

But if that horse is not Bernardini, then who is it? George Washington is a championship-class turf miler who has never shown early speed, and about whom there are obvious questions about his ability to handle dirt. And while his dam, Bordighera, who won at 1 5/8 miles in France, is by the great 10-furlong runner Alysheba, even trainer O'Brien doubted the ability of George Washington - sired by Danehill - to stay a mile before the 2000 Guineas in May, when he was still being nominated to sprint races.

George Washington is very likely in the same league as Giant's Causeway, who narrowly missed winning the 2000 Classic at Churchill Downs. Bernardini, however, is considerably better than the 2000 Classic winner, Tiznow. He may be in the same class as Affirmed and Seattle Slew, in which case all bets on any other horse are off.

Lava Man faces two big obstacles: a lack of Butazolidin and a journey out of Southern California. David Junior - a son of Jockey Club Gold Cup winner and Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Pleasant Tap - is a nice horse who beat Pride in the Champion Stakes last year, but who is coming off an Eclipse Stakes victory accomplished four months before what will be his first try on dirt. This is an ill-timed attempt for a horse who is already being syndicated for stud duty in Japan.