Updated on 09/16/2011 8:04AM

Spring has sprung, and with it Euro racing

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The traditional late-starting racing season may confound European efforts to win the Kentucky Derby, but it has the built-in benefit of producing fresh horses for the big international autumn events. While America's Triple Crown runners will be flagging by midsummer, Europe's big names will still be relatively fresh come the first day of fall.

The older horse probably most eagerly awaited on either side of the Atlantic is Banks Hill. The overwhelming winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, she might be seen on April 28 at Longchamp in the 1 5/16-mile Prix Ganay, the first European Group 1 race of the year.

Trainer Andre Fabre will be pointing Banks Hill, now a 4-year-old, to all of the world's best 10-furlong races. Among them are the Prince of Wales's Stakes, the Eclipse Stakes, the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes, and the Champion Stakes. Every one of them is against colts, but who is to say that she is not up to the task? The Prince of Wales's on June 19 at Royal Ascot, where she won the Coronation Stakes last year, could produce a mouth-watering clash with Sakhee.

Sakhee could be up to 10 lengths better on turf than dirt. Certainly his handy victories in the Juddmonte International and the Arc last year rate that much better than his Breeders' Cup Classic second-place finish. After having floundered in the Dubai World Cup, he will be kept on grass by Godolphin and race primarily, if not exclusively, at 1 1/4 miles. His World Cup conqueror, Street Cry, is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park in a few weeks. He will be trained by Saeed bin Suroor with the Breeders' Cup Classic his major objective.

At this stage, virtually all of the big hitters among older horses in Europe line up under the banners of either the Maktoums or the Tabor/Magnier consortium. The Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Nayef, who remains with Marcus Tregoning after his sharp score in the Dubai Sheema Classic, is another who could be seen in the Prince of Wales's, but the Maktoums will probably want to keep him away from Godolphin's Sakhee, so the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup at Epsom on June 8 may be a better spot for re-entry. Meanwhile, Aidan O'Brien has high hopes for Breeders' Cup Turf runner-up Milan, for whom the Coronation Cup make perfect sense.

Trainer Dermot Weld has his 4-year-old Irish St. Leger winner, Vinnie Roe, primed to challenge for the stayers' championship. That division, which seems to grow stronger every year, has a sentimental favorite in 9-year-old Persian Punch. Trained by Richard Hannon, he took the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Stakes last year and will try to make amends for his head loss to Royal Rebel in the Ascot Gold Cup on June 20.

The European sprint title is up for grabs, but do not expect any of the Euro speedsters to challenge the Americans, Australians, or Japanese for international honors. In fact, the British sprint division is so weak, it might behoove the connections of Caller One and Echo Eddie, the first two in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, to consider a trip to York on Aug. 22 for the Nunthorpe Stakes, a Group 1 race run over a straight and level five furlongs.

Noverre is the leading older miler in Europe right now, or he will be when Godolphin transfers him from Dubai to Newmarket in mid-April. The Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 18 could be his first target but he is vulnerable to challenges from the Michael Stoute-trained Golan as well as any number of promising 3-year-olds.

If Banks Hill is caught looking over her shoulder, Terre a Terre, trained by Eric Libaud, could challenge for older filly honors. Adept between eight and 10 furlongs, Terre a Terre performs well on any ground, as her victories in the Prix de l'Opera and Dubai Duty Free amply illustrate.

And what of the 3-year-old generation? All eyes are on Johannesburg, who could make his Kentucky Derby prep in a one-mile Lingfield allowance on April 6. He is Eurobet's 5-1 co-second choice with Repent for the Derby behind 4-1 Harlan's Holiday (Essence of Dubai is 16-1), but he is also listed as the 2-1 co-favorite for the 2000 Guineas with stablemate Hawk Wing. The feeling is that Johannesburg is still 50/50 between the Derby and the Guineas, which will be run on the same day, May 4.

Godolphin has Meshaheer, a Nureyev colt, gearing up for the 2000 Guineas, but the favorites for the 1000 Guineas are neither Godolphin nor Coolmore. Queen's Logic, trained by Mick Channon, and Gossamer, who is in Luca Cumani's yard, are 9-4 and 7-2 respectively for the filly classic.

In France, Act One will begin his classic aspirations in the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe on April 14. A bunch of Aidan O'Brien trainees, Ballingarry, Castle Gandolfo, and High Chaparral, could challenge him in the French Derby, or they could opt for the Epsom Derby, for which their stablemate Hawk Wing is the 6-1 favorite.

One they must all be wary of at the Derby level is Godolphin's Dubai Excellence. A half-brother to Dubai Millennium, he was an easy maiden winner in his lone start at two and has been backed down to 25-1 for the Epsom Derby.

2002 EUROPEAN GROUP 1 SCHEDULE
Date Track Race Dist. Age/Sex
Apr28 Longchamp (Fr) Prix Ganay 1-5/16m 4yo+
May4 Newmarket (GB) 2000 Guineas Stakes 1m 3yo c&f
May5 Newmarket (GB) 1000 Guineas Stakes 1m 3yo f
May12 Longchamp (Fr) Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1m 3yo c
May12 Longchamp (Fr) Poule d'Essai des Pouliches 1m 3yo f
May12 Longchamp (Fr) Prix Lupin 1-5/16m 3yo c&f
May12 Capannelle(Ity) Premio Pres della Republica 1-1/2m 4yo+ c&f
May18 Newbury (GB) Lockinge Stakes 1m 4yo+
May19 Longchamp (Fr) Prix Saint-Alary 1-1/4m 3yo f
May19 Longchamp (Fr) Prix d'Ispahan a1-1/8m 4yo+ c&f
May19 San Siro (Ity) Oaks d'Italia 1-3/8m 3yo f
May25 Curragh (Ire) Irish 2000 Guineas 1m 3yo c&f
May26 Curragh (Ire) Irish 1000 Guineas 1m 3yo f
May26 Curragh (Ire) Tattersalls Gold Cup 1-5/16m 4yo+
May26 Capannelle(Ity) Derby Italiano 1-1/2m 3yo c&f
Jun2 Chantilly (Fr) Prix du Jockey-Club 1-1/2m 3yo c&f
Jun2 Chantilly (Fr) Prix Jean Prat 1-1/8m 3yo c&f
Jun7 Epsom (GB) English Oaks 1-1/2m 3yo f
Jun7 Epsom (GB) Coronation Cup 1-1/2m 4yo+
Jun8 Epsom (GB) Epsom Derby 1-1/2m 3yo c&f
Jun9 Chantilly (Fr) Prix de Diane 1-5/16m 3yo f
Jun9 Mulheim (Ger) Preis der Diana 1-3/8m 3yo f
Jun16 Capennelle(Ity) Gran Premio di Milano 1-1/2m 3yo+ c&f
Jun18 Royal Ascot(GB) St James's Palace Stks 1m 3yo c
Jun19 Royal Ascot(GB) Prince of Wales's Stks 1-1/4m 4yo+
Jun20 Royal Ascot(GB) Ascot Gold Cup 2-1/2m 4yo+
Jun21 Royal Ascot(GB) Coronation Stakes 1m 3yo f
Jun22 Royal Ascot(GB) Cork and Orrery Stks 6f 3yo+
Jun23 Longchamp (Fr) Grand Prix de Paris 1-1/4m 3yo c&f
Jun30 Curragh (Ire) Irish Derby 1-1/2m 3yo c&f
Jun30 Saint-Cloud(Fr) Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud 1-1/2m 3yo+
Jly6 Sandown (GB) Eclipse Stakes 1-1/4m 3yo+
Jly7 Hamburg (Ger) Deutsches Derby 1-1/2m 3yo c&f
Jly11 Newmarket (GB) July Cup 6f 3yo+
Jly14 Curragh (Ire) Irish Oaks 1-1/2m 3yo f
Jly27 Ascot (GB) King George VI & Queen Eliz 1-1/2m 3yo+
Jly28 Dusseldorf(Ger) Deutschland Preis 1-1/2m 3yo+
Jly31 Goodwood (GB) Sussex Stakes 1m 3yo+
Aug3 Goodwood (GB) Nassau Stakes 1-1/4m 3yo+ f&m
Aug4 Munich (Ger) Bayerisches Zuchtrennen 1-1/4m 3yo+
Aug11 Deauville (Fr) Prix Maurice de Gheest 6-1/2f 3yo+
Aug11 Curragh (Ire) Phoenix Stakes 6f 2yo c&f
Aug11 Cologne (Ger) Credit Suisse-Pokal 1-1/2m 3yo+
Aug18 Deauville (Fr) Prix Jacques le Marois 1m 3yo c&f
Aug20 York (GB) Juddmonte International a1-5/16m 3yo+
Aug21 York (GB) Yorkshire Oaks 1-1/2m 3yo+ f&m
Aug22 York (GB) Nunthorpe Stakes 5f 2yo+
Aug25 Deauville (Fr) Prix Morny 6f 2yo c&f
Sep1 Baden-Baden(Ger)Grosser Preis von Baden 1-1/2m 3yo+
Sep1 Curragh (Ire) Moyglare Stud Stakes 7f 2yo f
Sep7 Leopardst'n(Ire)Irish Champion Stakes 1-1/4m 3yo+
Sep7 Haydock (GB) Haydock Park Sprint Cup 6f 3yo+
Sep8 Longchamp (Fr) Prix du Moulin de Longchamp 1m 3yo+ c&f
Sep14 Doncaster (GB) St Leger Stakes a1-13/16m 3yo c&f
Sep14 Curragh (Ire) Irish St Leger 1-3/4m 3yo+
Sep15 Longchamp (Fr) Prix Vermeille 1-1/2m 3yo f
Sep15 Curragh (Ire) National Stakes 7f 2yo c&f
Sep22 Cologne (Ger) Europa-Preis 1-1/2m 3yo+
Sep28 Ascot (GB) Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 1m 3yo+
Sep28 Ascot (GB) Fillies Mile 1m 2yo f
Oct3 Newmarket (GB) Middle Park Stakes 6f 2yo c
Oct4 Newmarket (GB) Cheveley Park Stakes 6f 2yo f
Oct6 Longchamp (Fr) Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 1-1/2m 3yo+ c&f
Oct6 Longchamp (Fr) Prix de l'Opera 1-1/4m 3yo+ f&m
Oct6 Longchamp (Fr) Prix de l'Abbaye 5f 2yo+
Oct6 Longchamp (Fr) Prix du Cadran 2-1/2m 4yo+
Oct6 Longchamp (Fr) Grand Criterium 7f 2yo c&f
Oct6 Longchamp (Fr) Prix Marcel Boussac 1m 2yo f
Oct12 Longchamp (Fr) Prix de la Foret 7f 3yo+
Oct12 San Siro (Ity) Premio Vittorio di Capua 1m 3yo+ c&f
Oct19 Newmarket (GB) Champion Stakes 1-1/4m 3yo+
Oct19 Newmarket (GB) Dewhurst Stakes 7f 2yo c&f
Oct20 San Siro (Ity) Gran Premio Coppa d'Oro 1-1/2m 3yo+ c&f
Oct20 San Siro (Ity) Gran Criterium 1m 2yo c&f
Oct26 Doncaster (GB) Racing Post Trophy 1m 2yo c&f
Oct27 Longchamp (Fr) Prix Royal-Oak 1-15/16m 3yo+
Nov2 Saint-Cloud(Fr) Criterium International 1m 2yo c&f
Nov9 Saint-Cloud(Fr) Criterium de Saint-Cloud 1-1/4m 2yo c&f
Nov17 Capannelle(Ity) Premio Roma 1m 3yo+ c&f