08/06/2007 11:00PM

'Win and You're In' could squeeze Euros

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NEW YORK - Will someone please explain how the winner of a Grade 2 race in July automatically qualifies for the Breeders' Cup Sprint in October?

Or how a horse that isn't even eligible for the Breeders' Cup now has a spot reserved for her in the Distaff by dint of a victory in the Go for Wand Stakes?

Or how the winner of the 1 1/8-mile Diana Stakes qualifies for the 1 3/8-mile Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf?

Or how a horse that had never before won a Grade 1 race has earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic simply by winning the Whitney Handicap?

Yet those are the cases, as Diabolical, Ginger Punch, My Typhoon, and Lawyer Ron are all in the Cup in spite of their so-so records.

The ludicrous "Win and You're In" scheme has produced four Breeders' Cup runners who may or may not have qualified on the old graded race/international handicappers criteria used exclusively in previous years. In Diabolical we have a guaranteed Sprint runner who has never won anything better than the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt, and that three months before the big event. Ginger Punch, currently ineligible for the Cup as she has not been nominated, earned her spot in the Distaff with a victory in a Go for Wand that included just one Grade 1 winner, Ermine. My Typhoon, who might develop into a nice Breeders' Cup Mile candidate, qualified for the 1 3/8-mile Filly and Mare Turf by winning a race two furlongs shorter than that, a Diana that included just a single Grade 1 winner, Magnificent Song. And Lawyer Ron, perhaps the best Grade 2 horse in the country, gets into the world's best dirt race, the Breeders' Cup Classic, off his first Grade 1 win.

European horsemen must feel hard done by. Last Saturday, Dylan Thomas won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, annually one of the best 1 1/2-mile races in the world. It was his second Group 1 victory of the year and fourth lifetime, yet as far as the Breeders' Cup Turf is concerned, he is still on the outside looking in.

On Saturday, five Group 1 winners of 10 Group 1 races met in Goodwood's 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Nassau Stakes, yet the winner will still have to prove herself worthy of admittance to the Filly and Mare Turf despite the fact that, year in and year out, the Nassau is vastly superior to the Diana. If proof is needed, last year's Nassau was won by Ouija Board, who would later win the Filly and Mare Turf for the second time in three years.

Darjina, the best 3-year-old filly miler in Europe, won her second Group 1 mile of the year last Sunday in the Prix d'Astarte. Why shouldn't this race, won previously by the superb fillies Mandesha and Divine Proportions, be part of the "Win and You're In" program? At least the horses that win the Astarte, the Nassau, and the King George are legitimate Breeders' Cup contenders.

The "Win and You're In" program is a gimmick, a marketing ploy designed to make NBC's television coverage more attractive to the average viewer. It was nice to see four races on a single network TV program last Saturday - it should be that way every weekend, like it is in England on either the BBC or Channel 4 - but qualifying for a Breeders' Cup race off any single race is an idea that can open the door to any number of unqualified horses squeezing better horses out of the Cup.

Let's scrap this nonsense before potential champions are denied a place in the Breeders' Cup in favor of Grade 2 winners, or horses who have qualified for a given race by winning races at completely different distances.

Japan offers more bang for the buck

With Sheikh Mohammed on the verge of becoming the first non-Japanese to receive an owner's license from the Japan Racing Association, it might behoove the ruler of Dubai to relocate to Japan. A comparison of the prize money on offer in the world's four major racing cities ( ) reveals that race winnings go a lot further in Tokyo than they do in New York, Paris, or London. In fact, consumer prices are so nice in Japan, it might behoove us all to move to Tokyo.