03/23/2007 12:00AM

Teofilo looks alone at head of pack


The 2007 European racing season started on a controversial note before a race had been run when John Magnier announced the retirement of Ballydoyle's leading 3-year-old Holy Roman Emperor. The stunning move was made to accommodate breeders who had signed mares to mate with Coolmore Stud's George Washington, who is suffering from fertility problems.

Putting the politics of the thing aside - and not forgetting that Holy Roman Emperor's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, may never get over the brush-off that will deny him his best chance of a classic triumph this year - Magnier's machinations leave the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby fields open for another Irish-trained 3-year-old, Teofilo.

A son of Galileo trained by Jim Bolger, Teofilo beat Holy Roman Emperor in both the National Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes to take European juvenile honors, and enters the new season as the favorite for both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. Bolger is considering the Group 3 Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial on April 7 as a prep for Newmarket's classic mile on May 5, but he is more likely to send Teofilo to the Guineas without a prep, a path taken by eight of the race's last 11 winners.

Among his rivals at Newmarket could be the unbeaten Dutch Art, trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam and winner of the Middle Park Stakes; the Paul Cole-trained Strategic Prince, a two-time Group 2 winner who was third in the Dewhurst; and O'Brien's second string, Mount Nelson, a Rock of Gibraltar colt who won the Criterium International and is the second favorite for the Derby.

Teofilo's stablemate Finsceal Beo, a Mr. Greeley filly who was Europe's 2-year-old filly champ, has relinquished 1000 Guineas favoritism to the Jeremy Noseda-trained Sander Camillo. Winner of the Prix Marcel Boussac by five lengths, Finsceal Beo is also likely to head for Newmarket without the benefit of a prep, but it is doubtful that Bolger will try her beyond a mile. In fact, she has not even been nominated to the English Oaks, whose favorite is Passage of Time, a Dansili filly who beat colts in the

1 1/4-mile Criterium de Saint-Cloud and who will be trying to give trainer Henry Cecil his first classic score since Love Divine won the Oaks in 2000.

Not to be discounted is another Irish-trained filly, Miss Beatrix, from Kevin Prendergast's barn and winner of the Goffs Million and Moyglare Stud Stakes winner.

Strong older competitors returning

The Andre Fabre-trained Arc de Triomphe winner, Rail Link, heads a strong group of older horses who remain in training. If George Washington returns to action, nine of Timeform's 10 highest-rated 3-year-olds of 2006 will race as 4-year-olds, among them Dylan Thomas and three who will line up in Saturday's Dubai Sheema Classic: Red Rocks, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf; Epsom Derby winner Sir Percy; and Youmzain.

The older filly and mare division lost Pride, Ouija Board, and Alexander Goldrun to retirement but picks up a pair of equally talented females in the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Mandesha, a Group 1 winner at 3 going a mile, 1 1/4 miles, and 1o1/2 miles, and Alexandrova, a three-time Group 1 winner at a 1 1/2 miles.

Another 4-year-old filly to watch is Red Evie, who climaxed a seven-race winning streak in the Group 1 Matron Stakes.

* Most notable among the changes in the 2007 pattern-race schedule is the demotion of the Italian Oaks from Group 1 to Group 2 status. Five Irish listed races - the Amethyst, Tyros, Give Thanks, Ballyroan, and Solonoway - have been upgraded to Group 3 status. In Germany, the Grosser Preis von Baden has had its purse cut from $960,000 to $330,000, although Mercedes-Benz has upped the German Derby from $520,000 to $1.4 million.

* It is all about money these days, and European as well as Australian purses at the group-race level are now much the same as American graded stakes. All three continents, however, lag behind Asia, where seven races this week, six in Dubai and one in Japan, will be worth a total of $23.7 million.