10/29/2006 12:00AM

Mount Nelson best in Criterium International


With the Breeders' Cup less than a week away, Aidan O'Brien served notice on Sunday that his Ballydoyle stable is firing on all cylinders as his Mount Nelson upset the heavily favored Spirit One in the $320,000 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.

A 7-furlong maiden winner in his second start at Gowran Park on Oct. 22, Mount Nelson corralled the pacesetting Spirit One at the eighth-pole and held on gamely under Jamie Heffernan to prevail by a head. O'Brien also accounted for the third-place Yellowstone, who had taken his Cork debut on July 14 before finishing seventh behind Teofilo in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes.

Both sons of Rock of Gibraltar and both owned by Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, Mount Nelson and Yellowstone speak volumes about the depth of the 2-year-olds trained by O'Brien, whose Holy Roman Emperor is already a two-time Group 1 winner. In Spirit One, Mount Nelson was defeating a Philippe Demercastel-trained son of Anabaa Blue who had won a listed and a Group 3 in his last two starts by a total of 14 lengths. Coupled with Yellowstone, Mount Nelson started at 10.90-1 and covered the mile on good to soft ground in 1:41.30. It remains to be seen, however, if he can live up to the reputations of previous Criterium International winners Dalakhani and Bago, both of whom went on to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

O'Brien has entered five horses in the Breeders' Cup, most prominent among them George Washington in the Classic and Scorpion in the Turf.