03/24/2005 1:00AM

Putting the 'World' in the Cup


NEW YORK - Racing's marketing geniuses are still trying to get everyone to call the Breeders' Cup the World Thoroughbred Championships, and it's failing to catch on for two reasons.

The first is that it is a mouthful of bland multi-syllables. The second is that the Breeders' Cup is no more authentically global than an International House of Pancakes. If you want to see a real United Nations of racing, look instead to the six races worth $15 million on the Dubai World Cup card Saturday night.

Of the 89 horses who ran in the last Breeders' Cup at Lone Star, only 13 were bred outside of the United States, and 7 of those 13 ran in a single race, the Filly and Mare Turf. So 85.4 percent of the runners in the World Thoroughbred Championships were bred in the United States. In Dubai on Saturday night, only 23 of the 73 entrants are American-breds, a mere 31.5 percent.

Those 50 horses bred outside of the United States come from 13 different countries: There are multiple entries from Ireland (12), Great Britain (9), Brazil (6), South Africa (6), Argentina (5), France (4), and Germany (2), and one each from Australia, Italy, Japan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. In addition, three other countries were the sites of the last race for some of the World Cup card starters - Greece, Hong Kong, and the host United Arab Emirates.

The Breeders' Cup drew its handful of foreign-breds from a much shorter list: Great Britain (6), Ireland (2), France (2), and one each from Germany, South Africa, and the UAE. The most conspicuous absentees were South Americans. You would think that South American horses would be more likely to run in Texas than Dubai, but the World Cup card has 12 South American-breds and the Breeders' Cup had none.

For that you can thank an unfair Breeders' Cup nomination system that gives Europeans a free ride and discourages South Americans through punitive supplemental fees. It is an ongoing disappointment that world-class horses such as Pico Central and Leroidesani-maux are effectively frozen out of the Breeders' Cup because they were born in Brazil rather than Britain.

There are three other glaring differences between the $14 million Breeders' Cup and $15 million World Cup cards. The first regards gender. Three of the eight Breeders' Cup races are for fillies and mares, and fillies took on males in three of the five open races, so a total of 38 of the 89 Breeders' Cup entrants (42.5 percent) were female. None of the six World Cup races is for fillies, and only 5 of the 73 runners (6.8 percent) are female.

A second difference regards prepping. Only one horse of the 89 who ran in the Breeders' Cup had a final prep over the track at Lone Star, but an astounding 44 of the 73 World Cup runners are coming off a prep race at Nad Al Sheba in the last three to six weeks.

One big reason for that is the final major difference between the two cards. No owner had more than four horses in the Breeders' Cup, but 25 of the 73 World Cup card runners are owned by members of the Maktoum family, which rules Dubai. With 34 percent of the starters, this gives the Maktoums a chance to recoup some of the $15 million in purses they put up themselves or through the sponsorships of their hotels, newspapers, and airlines. This is not counting the additional millions they spend paying almost everyone's bills to come to their big party in the desert, an effort motivated partly by an extravagant interest in racing and partly by an attempt to sell wealthy international horse owners on Dubai City as a high-end tourist destination.

Whatever the reasons, the result is a fascinating set of international past performances from which you can learn all sorts of esoteric nuggets: an allowance race in Athens carries a purse of about $24,000, a Grade 3 stakes in Istanbul goes for a surprisingly healthy $90,000, and Dynever can run second in any language.

Second in his debut, second in the West Virginia Derby, the Brooklyn, and in two runnings of the Meadowlands Cup, Dynever was last seen on American soil finishing second to Badge of Silver in the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream on Jan. 8. Sold to Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, he made his next start in the $53,300 Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Cup over 2 1/8 miles at King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh Feb. 18. Of course, he finished second.

Still, at 20-1 on the World Cup line, doesn't he rate a shot turning back from 17 furlongs to a mere 10? Until a steeplechaser runs in the Breeders' Cup Classic, that's an angle you may never get to play again.