10/12/2004 11:00PM

Preps boost U.S. profile

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With a presidential election just around the corner and the war on terror continuing, many Americans - even horseplayers - have a heightened sense of nationalism these days.

This loyalty to country, however, extends only so far, and does not necessarily apply to the Breeders' Cup - especially the three grass races. American horseplayers frequently adopt a philosophy of familiarity-breeds-contempt, and they lean toward trashing the American contingent of grass horses while fawning over what Europe has to offer. Considering that Europe has accounted for nine of the 20 winners of the Breeders' Cup Mile, clearly there is some merit to that line of thinking, although the knee-jerk dismissal of American form sometimes goes overboard.

Before last weekend, disdain for the Yanks seemed to be holding firm again this year. As a prime example, from the top 10 contenders in the Daily Racing Form rankings for the BC Mile last Friday, seven were Europeans.

But then three major preps were run Saturday in the United States, and suddenly there is a new slant on the 2004 Mile. Nothing to Lose posted a dazzling victory in the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, a gutsy filly named Musical Chimes won a thrilling Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, and Mr O'Brien put it all together in the Kelso Mile at Belmont. It seems that baseball, apple pie, and American grass milers are once again in vogue.

"Our horse did us proud," said Ken Ramsey, who bred and owns Nothing to Lose with his wife, Sarah. "He's getting good at the right time. He really finished with a burst of energy Saturday."

As the American stock was rising, European chances took a slide, if only because their numbers are dwindling. According to the International Racing Bureau in England, the following horses will not be named Wednesday to the Mile when pre-entries for all eight Breeders' Cup races are announced: Rakti, Chic, Lucky Story, and Refuse to Bend.

Despite those defections, Europe appears to have a solid hand. Still slated to run in the Mile are the defending champion, Six Perfections; Cacique, winner of the Group 1 Daniel Wildenstein at Longchamp this month; Whipper, winner of the Group 1 Jacque le Marois in France in August; and the Aidan O'Brien-trained Antonius Pius. Of those, only Cacique is less than definite; trainer Andre Fabre is supposed to announce his status within the next few days.

The lone charter flight for European runners in the Breeders' Cup is scheduled to make its last stop at Shannon Airport in Ireland before arriving in Dallas on Oct. 25.

Back in America, Nothing to Lose, a 4-year-old Sky Classic colt, vaulted toward the top of the domestic heap with a huge effort that earned him a lifetime high Beyer Speed Figure of 110. Nothing to Lose has posted triple-digit Beyers in his last five starts.

"I've been on him almost every day since we got him over the winter," said exercise rider Jose Cuevas, who accompanied Nothing to Lose to Keeneland on behalf of trainer Bobby Frankel. "He's always been a good horse. Always. This race, he really showed what he can do."

Cuevas said Nothing to Lose came out of his race in perfect shape. The colt returned to Frankel at Belmont Park on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, trainer Neil Drysdale has confirmed Musical Chimes for the Mile following brief consideration of the Filly and Mare Turf or the Distaff. Singletary, beaten two noses when third behind Musical Chimes on Saturday, is the only other Oak Tree BC starter wheeling back for the Mile.

Trainer Robin Graham said Wednesday that she and the Skeedattle partnership, which owns Mr O'Brien, are still deciding whether to run in the Mile. Mr O'Brien would be the only Kelso runner for the Mile.

Foremost among the Mile prospects who skipped the final round of preps are the Julio Canani-trained pair of Special Ring and Blackdoun; Artie Schiller, the standout 3-year-old trained by Jimmy Jerkens; and Soaring Free, winner of the Atto Mile.

Other horses under consideration for the Mile include Balto Star (either Mile or Turf); Honor in War, runner-up in the Shadwell for the second straight year; and Domestic Dispute.

Mile Contenders
3-year-olds & up, 1 mile (turf). Purse: $1.5 million.

RANKHORSETRAINERODDS
1CaciqueA. Fabre6-1
A force off his recent victory, but his status has become questionable
2Six PerfectionsP. Bary9-2
She was in better form when she won this last year than she is in now
3Special RingJ. Canani6-1
Being handled Euro-style; this will be only his second start of year
4Nothing to LoseR. Frankel5-1
His Shadwell Mile was by far his best yet; getting hot at the right time
5WhipperR. Collet10-1
Beaten favorite in the Moulin beat Six Perfections two starts back
6Artie SchillerJ. Jerkens12-1
Would be six for his last six were it not for one second to Kitten's Joy
7Mr O'BrienR. Graham12-1
After first saying no, his people are now considering supplementing
8SingletaryD. Chaltos Jr.15-1
Conceded meaningful ground every step of the way in Oak Tree Mile
9Musical ChimesN. Drysdale15-1
Filly prevailed in the Oak Tree Mile after a better trip than others got
10BlackdounJ. Canani15-1
Three for three in the U.S., but against second-tier 3-year-olds

- The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.