10/24/2006 11:00PM

U.S. hopes have Euro ties


The $2 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 will have a distinctly European flavor. Of the 18 horses pre-entered, eight are based in Europe and 12 began their careers there.

Even the two leading chances based in the United States - Aragorn and Gorella - were stakes winners in Europe in 2005. Aragorn, expected to go favored, has won four graded stakes since May; Gorella has won three consecutive graded stakes.

The top hopes of a strong European team are Araafa, the winner of two Group 1 races in the spring; Aussie Rules, the winner of the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland in his U.S. debut on Oct. 7; Echo of Light, the winner of two group stakes in England and France in September; and Librettist, the winner of two Group 1 races in France in the summer.

Aragorn is favored with European bookmakers. His four wins have come in California, including the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 7.

"He's very happy," Drysdale said.

Fourteen of the 18 pre-entered have been chosen to start. A committee of racing officials has relegated Mauralakana, Ivan Denisovich, Courtnall, and Lewis Michael to an alternates list. They would gain a berth if there is a defection. Super Frolic, one of the 14 chosen to start in the Mile and the Classic, has first preference for the Classic.

Ivan Denisovich, trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, was second in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August. Mauralakana was second in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 14. Mauralakana is also pre-entered in the BC Filly and Mare Turf.

A surprise inclusion on the European team was Sleeping Indian, the winner of the Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket, England, on Oct. 14.

The Breeders' Cup Mile is expected to be Sleeping Indian's final start. He is booked to enter stud in England next year, trainer John Gosden said Wednesday.

Sleeping Indian, 5, has won 2 of 3 starts this year and 6 of 11 starts in his career. The Challenge Stakes is the most prestigious of his four stakes wins.

"He won in good style," Gosden said.

Gosden said Sleeping Indian fought illness earlier this year that kept him out of racing until mid-September. "That put him out of the picture for a bit," Gosden said. "He's a fresh horse in the fall."

Sleeping Indian, who is expected to be ridden by Alex Solis, breezed seven furlongs on a gallop adjacent to Newmarket racecourse Wednesday, according to Gosden. The workout was not timed since it was primarily on a straightaway, Gosden said.