Belmont ratings swell Lake's prospects

The cast list for the Breeders' Cup, the New York spectacular that will bring the Flat season to a climax at Belmont Park on Saturday week, was unveiled yesterday.

British stables have assembled a team of eight for this, the 12th edition of racing's world championships and, after Barathea's victory in the Mile 12 months ago, confidence is high that the squad will not return empty-handed.

Top of the bill will be the contest between America's Cigar, unbeaten in his last 11 starts, and Godolphin's Halling, unbeaten in eight, for the Classic, the richest of the seven races and run over a mile and a quarter on dirt.

There was also official confirmation that at least one of the supporting players - Harayir, Hever Golf Rose, Lake Coniston, Owington, Sayyedati, Soviet Line,and Tamure - should be respected by their American rivals when Lake Coniston was rated as clearly the top horse in the Sprint according to the meeting's handicappers.

Britain's leading speedster, who has not raced since flopping at Haydock last month, is rated 6lb clear of America's best, Classy Mirage, and 8lb ahead of Hever Golf Rose.

A spin around a bend on Lingfield's all-weather track has satisfied his trainer, Geoff Lewis, that Lake Coniston can cope with the Belmont turn. "If he can put Haydock behind him and produce his best form, he will win," Lewis said.

"He's been working great and is in good mental shape. You should have seen him turn round my paddock this morning flat out. He made Belmont look like Newmarket."

Despite that confidence, Lake Coniston is quoted at 5-1 for the Sprint and Ladbrokes see the possibility that there will be no British success as an odds-on chance. They bet 4-6 no British winners, 11-10 one or more. A single victory is 11-8 and they then offer 8-1 two wins, 50-1 three and 750-1 four.

The British runners form part of a group of 17 Europeans, the fewest since 1990. They include Ireland's Ridgewood Pearl, a leading contender for the Mile, seven from France and one from Germany.

Belmont Park has proved a rewarding track for Europeans. Five years ago Royal Academy captured the Mile under Lester Piggott, In The Wings took the Turf and Dayjur nearly won the Sprint. Paul Cole's Ibn Bey also finished second in the Classic.

Halling is rated a 5-2 chance by both Ladbrokes and Coral to go one better. Cigar is 4-6. "This is absolutely the heavyweight championship of the world," the senior handicapper, Geoffrey Gibbs, said. "I don't ever recall a race of such marvellous quality in depth. To try and call a winner is impossible."

Breeders' Cup Classic: Coral: 4-6 Cigar, 5-2 Halling, 10-1 Freedom Cry, Heavenly Prize, 14-1 Celtic Arms, French Deputy, Peaks And Valleys, Unaccounted For, 16-1 others.

Turf: Coral: 4-1 Freedom Cry, 9-2 Northern Spur, 6-1 Hernando, 7-1 Awad, Turk Passer, 8-1 Carnegie, 10-1 Tamure, 12-1 others.

Mile: Coral: 4-1 Fastness, 5-1 Cherokee Rose, Dove Hunt, Ridgewood Pearl, 10-1 Harayir, Mighty Forum, 12-1 Shaanxi, 14-1 Sayyedati, 16-1 others.

Sprint: Coral: 7-2 You And I, 4-1 Not Surprising, 5-1 Lake Coniston, 6-1 Hever Golf Rose, 7-1 Classy Image, Our Emblem, 10-1 Golden Gear, 12- 1 Lit De Justice, 14-1 others.

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