10/14/2002 11:00PM

More than Mile an error for Rock of Gibraltar


LAS VEGAS - Rock of Gibraltar is the marquee attraction in this year's Breeders' Cup, and although he may be cross-entered in both the Mile and Classic, he belongs in the Mile. A son of Danehill (by Danzig) out of a mare by Be My Guest (Northern Dancer), he is intensely inbred to Northern Dancer, which usually indicates a strong preference for turf.

Danehill is by far the most successful son of Danzig at stud, and although many runners by Danehill have won at classic distances on grass around the world, they have yet to prove their effectiveness over a distance on dirt.

European superstars Giant's Causeway (Storm Cat) and Sakhee (Bahri), who had previously shown their brilliance over a distance of ground, finished a heartbeat behind Tiznow in back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classics, but Rock of Gibraltar has never raced beyond one mile. There may be particular interest in placing Rock of Gibraltar in this year's Classic because it is devoid of any stars. The older handicap division is in ruins, and the favorite will likely be Medaglia d'Oro, who has not raced since winning the Travers Stakes. (In fact, the Classic shapes up as a race within a race, as the 3-year-old title is on the line among Medaglia d'Oro, Came Home, and War Emblem.)

While there is no disputing Rock of Gibraltar's high class (his second dam is a half-sister to Riverman), it would be a herculean task for turf-bred Rock of Gibraltar to win on dirt at 1 1/4 miles.

Half-brothers clash in Mile

One of the more intriguing stories in this year's Breeders' Cup is the matchup of half-brothers Aldebaran (Mr. Prospector) and Good Journey (Nureyev) in the Mile. Their close relative Denon (Pleasant Colony) runs in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Aldebaran, Good Journey, and Denon all come from the same female family, and it would be quite an accomplishment if they are successful on Breeders' Cup Day. Aldebaran and Good Journey are out of dual Group 1 winner Chimes of Freedom (Private Account).

Group-placed in England on grass, Aldebaran finished second in the Metropolitan and Forego handicaps on the dirt this year, and may be a live longshot in a return to turf. Good Journey, who has achieved success at the ripe old age of 6 under the tutelage of the patient Wally Dollase, won the Citation Stakes and Atto Mile and is one of the best U.S. hopes in the Mile. His sire, the late Nureyev (Northern Dancer), has a prominent place in Breeders' Cup history as the sire of two-time Mile winner Miesque, Mile winner Spinning World, and Turf winner Theatrical. Another daughter, Sonic Lady, finished third in the Mile.

Chimes of Freedom is a half-sister to Denon, winner of the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational, who faces a stern test against the best Europeans in the Turf. To further underscore the high quality of this family, Chimes of Freedom is also a half-sister to the Riverman mare Imperfect World, the dam of Spinning World, who is now a promising stallion.

Beware of Kona Gold in Sprint

While he has been all but written off as an over-the-hill sprint star, 8-year-old Kona Gold (Java Gold) is training like a young colt and will be overlooked in the Sprint. While disappointing in earlier races this year, Kona Gold, winner of the 2000 Breeders' Cup Sprint, is training purposefully up to this year's Sprint.

Orientate, Bonapaw, and Xtra Heat are formidable opponents, and Swept Overboard desperately needed his last race, but a return to form will find the forgotten Kona Gold squarely in the thick of it.

Very deep Distaff

All eight Breeders' Cup races will be competitive, but the Distaff is coming up unusually strong. The older fillies are headed by Azeri (Jade Hunter) and Summer Colony (Summer Squall), and they will be joined by this year's best 3-year-old fillies, Take Charge Lady (Dehere), Imperial Gesture (Langfuhr), and Farda Amiga (Broad Brush). The Distaff, like the Classic, will also be a race within a race, as it will decide the 3-year-old filly of the year.

Azeri has been dominant beating up on lesser fillies and mares on the West Coast this year, but will be severely tested in the Distaff. Azeri descends from the same female family as Breeders' Cup Mile winner Silic.

Summer Colony was at a disadvantage in the one-turn Beldame, and her third-place finish only enhances her odds in the Distaff. With an expected furious pace around two turns, Summer Colony may be the one to beat. Her dam is a half-sister to stakes winner With Ability. This is the classy female family of Barely Even, who counted the Ashland and Astarita stakes among her 17 victories.

Imperial Gesture is by the very underrated Langfuhr (Danzig), and is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Sardula. Winner of the Gazelle Handicap and Beldame, Imperial Gesture is on a three-race winning streak, but her front-running style will have her battling with Azeri from the start.

Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes winner Farda Amiga will also benefit from a speed duel. By stamina influence Broad Brush, her second dam is a half-sister to St. Jovite, Lac Ouimet, Salem Drive, and L'Carriere. Along with Summer Colony, Farda Amiga will be flying at the finish.