10/11/2001 11:00PM

Two Euro barns have scared away the rest


The number of foreign challengers in this year's Breeders' Cup was expected to be high because of the favorable light in which European horsemen hold Belmont Park. At this time, however, it looks as if just 14 or 15 Europeans will cross the Atlantic for racing's $13 million day on Oct. 27.

It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for this low number. It could be that some trainers are skittish about traveling to New York after the terrorist attacks, but it may also be that European trainers are a bit intimidated by the powerful teams being sent to Belmont Park by Saeed bin Suroor and Aidan O'Brien.

Godolphin and Ballydoyle have dominated racing in Europe this season. With Suroor and Sheikh Mohammed at the helm, Godolphin has landed 11 Group 1 contests. Aidan O'Brien and his Ballydoyle team have won 13.

Godolphin is sending Sakhee (Turf), Fantastic Light (Classic), and Noverre (Mile), while O'Brien has Galileo (Classic), Mozart (Sprint), Johannesburg (Juvenile), Black Minnaloushe (Mile or Classic), and possibly Milan (Turf) in the Cup lineup. Those eight have won a total of 17 Group 1 races this year, so maybe the rest of Europe thinks, if we can't beat them on our own turf, why try beating them on foreign soil?

Godolphin's Breeders' Cup side looks even more powerful when Eoin Harty's 2-year-olds are added into the mix. With Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham in the Juvenile and Tempera and Imperial Gesture in the Juvenile Fillies, the Maktoums have very serious contenders in five Cup races.

Michael Tabor, part owner of all of the O'Brien-trained Cup contenders, also has the Todd Pletcher-trained Left Bank in the Sprint and the Neil Drysdale-trained Bella Bellucci in the Juvenile Fillies. Thus, Tabor will have an interest in five or six Cup contests, depending on the status of Milan.

The Godolphin contingent has decided to give their horses a chance to acclimate to their new surroundings. They arrived at Belmont on Friday afternoon and were out of quarantine 24 hours later. O'Brien, on the other hand will have his team fresh off the plane, as they will not arrive at Belmont until Tuesday.

But what the Europeans lack in quantity, they more than make up for in quality. When Lailani (Filly and Mare Turf), Banks Hill (Mile or Filly and Mare Turf), and Mutamam (Turf) are taken into account, this is probably the strongest group of foreign invaders the Breeders' Cup has ever seen.

British bookies Coral Eurobet are offering a price of just 2-1 on the chances of two European Cup victories. They also offer 9-4 for a single Cup score, 4-1 for a Euro shutout and 4-1 for three European wins. If you think the invaders can take four Cup races, you're on at 12-1, and you get 20-1 on the possibility of five or more victories.

There have been a few European defections from the Breeders' Cup in the last 24 hours. Michael Stoute is now doubtful about Medicean for the Mile and Daliapour for the Turf, but is considering No Excuse Needed for the Mile, while the Francois Doumen-trained Jim and Tonic is skipping the Mile for a tilt in the Hong Kong Cup at his favorite track, Sha Tin.

Meanwhile, Robert Collet, architect of Last Tycoon's memorable victory in the 1986 Sprint, is considering his E.P. Taylor winner Choc Ice for the Filly and Mare Turf, but is not keen about having to pay the supplementary entry fee to get her into the race. Collet would prefer to send Choc Ice to the Matriarch Stakes at Santa Anita nest month, so the chances of seeing her at Belmont look slim.

But Mot Juste, an Ed Dunlop-trained stablemate of Lailani, has been named for the Filly and Mare Turf and will accompany the John Gosden-trained Crystal Music on a flight to New York from Stanstead Airport north of London on Monday.

Current Coral Eurobet odds for the leading Breeders' Cup contenders follow.

CLASSIC: Fantastic Light 5-2; Galileo 3-1; Aptitude 8-1; Tiznow 14-1; Albert The Great, Include 14-1.

TURF: Sakhee 4-5; Mutamam 7-1; With Anticipation 8-1; Timboroa 10-1; Hap, Senure 12-1; Blueprint 20-1.

MILE: Noverre 7-1; Banks Hill, Irish Prize, Forbidden Apple 8-1; Affirmed Success, Numerous Times 10-1; Black Minnaloushe 12-1; Val Royal 16-1.

FILLY AND MARE TURF: Lailani 7-2; England's Legend 9-2; Starine, Janet 7-1; Volga 8-1; Spring Oak 12-1.

SPRINT: Kona Gold 9-2; Caller One 5-1; Mozart 6-1; El Corredor, Squirtle Squirt 8-1; Swept Overboard, Xtra Heat 14-1; Left Bank 20-1.

JUVENILE: Officer 4-6; Johannesburg 5-1; Came Home 6-1; Siphonic 8-1; Essence of Dubai 14-1.