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Ouija Board Europe's biggest gun
Names like High Chaparral, Fantastic Light, Daylami, and Pilsudski have a certain ring to them. They were all absolutely first-class horses whose reputations preceded them en route to their famous victories in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
No such names will be dropped into the BC Turf pre-entry box on Monday, unless one counts Ouija Board, the English and Irish Oaks winner who was a fast-closing but unlucky third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Ouija Board could be the savior of the Breeders' Cup Turf as a genuine international contest. Her owner, Lord Derby, whose father, the previous Lord Derby, sent Teleprompter to win the Arlington Million in 1985, will apparently put up the $240,000 supplementary fee to get his filly into the race. However, he will probably retain a second option in the Filly and Mare Turf, which would require a mere $120,000 supplement.
His lordship and trainer Ed Dunlop have switched their preference for Ouija Board to the Turf because of the lackluster field that is being assembled for that race. The only other European-trained horses being considered for the $2 million, 1 1/2-mile race are: disqualified Arlington Million winner Powerscourt, who is likely to be pre-entered by trainer Aidan O'Brien in the Classic as well; Simple Exchange, trainer Dermot Weld's American Derby winner who was soundly defeated by Kitten's Joy in the Secretariat Stakes; and the O'Brien-trained Mingun, an A.P. Indy-Miesque 4-year-old who would have had to run a big race in Saturday's Champion Stakes at Newmarket to warrant a trip to Lone Star Park.
Call it fear or call it aversion, but some of the best European horses are bypassing the Breeders' Cup this year because it is being held in the untested waters of Lone Star Park, a track in a warm-weather climate where no European-trained horse has ever run. Add the tight turns and short stretch of one furlong, 90 yards and it is not difficult to see why two of the best European middle-distance runners, Sulamani and Mubtaker, are headed to the Canadian International at Woodbine, where the weather is European-like, the turns are mild, and the stretch is a lengthy 2 1/2 furlongs.
Neither Acropolis, fourth in the Arc for O'Brien, nor Tycoon, third in the Turf Classic for the same trainer, will be at Lone Star. Acropolis was never under consideration, while Tycoon has been bought by Sheikh Mohammed's son Rashid and will be sent to Dubai to prepare for the Sheema Classic in March.
Foreign names likely to be pre-entered the Filly and Mare Turf on Monday, in addition to Ouija Board, include: Beverly D. winner Crimson Palace, who may be Godolphin's sole representative at Lone Star; Aubonne, a disappointment in both the Beverly D. and the Flower Bowl; and Nebraska Tornado, the hard-to-handle, Andre Fabre-trained and Juddmonte-owned filly who may be given a first preference in the Distaff.
Defending champ Six Perfections heads the list of Euros for the Mile, and while she has yet to win this year, the pattern of her last three performances this summer is almost identical to that which she brought with her from France last year. Whipper - bred by the Niarchos family, like Six Perfections is, but owned by Richard Strauss - is trained by Robert Collet, who stretched out Last Tycoon from five furlongs to win the 1986 BC Mile. Antonius Pius, like Nebraska Tornado a tricky horse to handle, is one of a number of O'Brien Cup candidates. And then there is the Fabre-trained Diamond Green. Runner-up in the French 2000 Guineas, the St. James's Palace Stakes, and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, he flopped in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but could be well suited to Lone Star's tight configurations.
Rebuttal, Timeform's fourth-highest-rated European 2-year-old, will come for the BC Juvenile if owner Peter Minikes feels like paying the transportation costs from England. His trainer, Brian Meehan, delivered Buy the Sport to win the Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap last year, so he probably knows a European dirt horse when he sees one.
O'Brien is considering Scandinavia, runner-up in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at a mile, while the multiple group-race-placed Wilko, trained by Jeremy Noseda for new American owner J. Paul Reddam, is another Juvenile possibility.
Mona Lisa, one of Giant's Causeway's excellent first crop, is being considered by O'Brien for the BC Juvenile Fillies. An unlucky fourth in the Group 1 Fillies Mile at Ascot, she is still a maiden, but one on the improve.
The decision by the Niarchos family to put away Arc champ Bago for the winter was disappointing to many in terms of the Breeders' Cup Classic, but in the long run it appears to be a wise move. Cutting back from 12 furlongs on turf to 10 on dirt would have been asking much of a horse who has never raced on dirt before. A Breeders' Cup race next year at Belmont for Bago has already been suggested by the Niarchos family's racing manager, Alan Cooper.
Powerscourt would be an interesting addition to the Classic field, as he is probably better at 1 1/4 miles than the 1 1/2 miles of the Turf, although there is nothing in his pedigree - Sadler's Wells out of a Rainbow Quest mare - to suggest he will take to dirt. Further international flavor in the Classic might come in the form of Japanese invader Personal Rush.
A 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Wild Rush out of the Alydar mare Personally, Personal Rush was already a Grade 3 winner on dirt at Sapporo when he won the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Derby Grand Prix at Morioka at Sept. 20. Owner Tomiro Fukami and trainer Kenji Yamauchi will pre-enter him in the Classic, but will only fly him to Lone Star if it appears likely that he will qualify for the final 14.
His big win last time was at a National Association of Racing track, where the competition isn't as strong as at Japan Racing Association tracks such as Tokyo or Sapporo. Still, the Derby Grand Prix included all of the best young dirt horses in Japan, which has produced such world-class dirt performers as Kurofune and Admire Don. Messrs. Fukami and Yamauchi are making a grand sporting gesture here.
If Personal Rush is ballotted out of the Classic, the reputation of the Breeders' Cup as an international racing event will suffer.