07/31/2003 11:00PM

World Rankings skewed by British bias


NEW YORK - If the weekly World Rankings rating the leading candidates in six Breeders' Cup races are to be believed, five of the six winners could be European-based.

That is because five of the six top ranked horses in the rankings are trained in Europe. They are Moon Ballad in the Classic, Alamshar in the Turf, Oasis Dream in the Sprint, Russian Rhythm in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Dubai Destination in the Mile. While there can be no argument with either Alamshar or Dubai Destination, all of the other European leaders appear to have benefited from a rating system that is skewered in favor of European-trained horses.

I'm a believer in the concept that European form is generally 10 lengths better than American form. That touchstone can be halved, however, when applied directly to American turf races, and it is highly unreliable in dirt races. If the Breeders' Cup were being run at Ascot or Longchamp, there could be little argument with the World Rankings.

But this year's Breeders' Cup will be run at Santa Anita, a track where European-trained horses are just 2 for 30 in the two Cups that have been run there, Last Tycoon having won the 1986 Mile, and Arcangues the 1993 Classic.

The big problem with the World Rankings as a guide to Breeders' Cup possibilities is the European-style handicapping system that it employs. Like the system used in the year-end International Classifications, the rankings are determined by the rating achieved in a horse's single best annual performance. Thus Moon Ballad, brilliant winner of the Dubai World Cup, sits atop the Classic rankings despite two subpar performances on turf since then.

The World Rankings would be better served if they were determined in the same manner as an American handicap, with all races taken into account. Under such a system Moon Ballad would be dropped a few pounds for his dismal ninth in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, and a new division leader, Empire Maker, Funny Cide, or Medaglia d'Oro, would emerge.

There is a bigger problem with Oasis Dream as the highest-rated sprinter in the world. He earned his spot with a victory over Choisir in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket, but it is the presence of Choisir that puts the lie to the quality of European sprinters.

Not even the third-best sprinter in Australia, Choisir won both big sprints at Royal Ascot and was probably over the top at Newmarket. In Australia he ranked just slightly higher than Falvelon, a horse who slammed all European comers not once but twice in the Hong Kong Sprint.

European sprinters of recent vintage have been exposed as inferior not only in Hong Kong, but in the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the Breeders' Cup Sprint as well. On the form of those three international races, upon which the July Cup has not improved substantially, Oasis Dream might just make the top 10 in the Sprint rankings.

The difficulty here is British bias. The World Ranking committee includes Nigel Gray, the English Jockey Club's chief handicapper. Gray is the eminence grise of European handicapping circles, but his understanding of American racing leaves something to be desired.

His experience in having his way in the International Classifications, a British invention in which with few exceptions British horses are consistently ranked higher than French horses of similar quality, was illustrated by the reaction of a French handicapper during an off-the-cuff discussion of international ratings at the Arc meeting in 2001. When asked about a perceived British bias in the International Classifications, he shrugged his shoulders and replied, "The English are our masters in such matters."

Well, they shouldn't be our masters where the Breeders' Cup is concerned. Admittedly, the American members of the World Rankings know as little about European racing as the British know about American racing, but the Americans' inexperience in European style ratings gives the British an advantage. As a result, the Breeders' Cup World Rankings look very much like a marketing device for the promotion of British racing.

Here are two suggestions for the World Rankings committee. One, scrap the current rating system and instead rate horses as one would for a handicap. Two, assign at least one European handicapper to spend considerable time in America each year, and one American to do likewise in Europe. That would be a start towards eliminating national biases in both the Breeders' Cup World Rankings and the International Classifications.


1 Moon Ballad (IRE) Saeed bin Suroor 125
2 Empire Maker Robert Frankel 123
Funny Cide Barclay Tagg 123
Medaglia d'Oro Robert Frankel 123
Mineshaft Neil J. Howard 123
Congaree Bob Baffert 123
7 Peace Rules Robert Frankel 120
8 Ten Most Wanted Wallace Dollase 119
9 Volponi Philip G. Johnson 118
Harlan's Holiday Todd A. Pletcher 118


1 Alamshar (IRE) John M. Oxx 131
2 Sulamani (IRE) Saeed bin Suroor 126
3 Nayef Marcus Tregoning 125
Dalakhani (IRE) Alain Royer Dupre 125
5 Ange Gabriel (FR) Eric Libaud 123
6 Kris Kin Sir Michael Stoute 122
Storming Home Neil D. Drysdale 122
8 Rakti (GB) Michael A. Jarvis 121
Bollin Eric (GB) Tim D. Easterby 121
Falbrav (IRE) Luca Cumani 121


1 Azeri Laura de Seroux 124
2 Sightseek Robert Frankel 120
3 Wild Spirit (CHI) Robert Frankel 118
4 Bird Town Nicholas P. Zito 117
Take Charge Lady Kenneth G. McPeek 117
6 Elloluv Craig Dollase 116
7 Got Koko Bruce Headley 115
Spoken Fur Robert Frankel 115
Lady Tak Steven Asmussen 115
10 Summer Colony Mark A. Hennig 114


1 Oasis Dream (GB) John Gosden 124
2 Aldebaran Robert Frankel 120
3 Shake You Down Scott A. Lake 118
4 Beau's Town Cole Norman 116
5 Posse Steven Asmussen 114
Joey Franco Darrell Vienna 114
7 Midas Eyes Robert Frankel 113
House Party H. Allen Jerkens 113
Shine Again H. Allen Jerkens 113
10 My Cousin Matt Scott A. Lake 112

filly & mare turf DIVISION

1 Russian Rhythm Sir Michael Stoute 120
2 Tates Creek Robert Frankel 119
3 Ipi Tombe (ZIM) Elliott Walden 118
Vintage Tipple (IRE) Patrick Mullins 118
Golden Apples (IRE) Ben Cecil 118
6 Dublino Laura De Seroux 117
Yesterday (IRE) Aidan P. O'Brien 117
Voodoo Dancer Christophe Clement 117
9 Nebraska Tornado Andre Fabre 116
Islington (IRE) Sir Michael Stoute 116

net jets mile DIVISION

1 Dubai Destination Saeed bin Suroor 125
2 Zafeen (FR) Mick Channon 124
3 Kalaman (IRE) Sir Michael Stoute 122
4 Indian Haven (GB) Paul D'Arcy 121
5 Special Ring Julio C. Canani 120
6 Refuse to Bend (IRE) Dermot K. Weld 119
7 Redattore (BRZ) Richard E. Mandella 118
8 Domedriver (IRE) Pascal Bary 117
Tillerman (GB) Amanda Perrett 117
Six Perfections (FR) Pascal Bary 117
Soviet Song (IRE) James Fanshawe 117