American bookies bow to Mozart's reputation

Click to follow
The Independent Online

With a name like Sakhee, you would imagine the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner's most immediate preoccupation would be the Japan Cup. Yet it is the tangle between the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week and the Breeders' Cup meeting the following weekend which is particularly occupying the minds of those who would like to see the great horse race again.

Headquarters and a Dubai-sponsored event appears the favourite, but if Sakhee were to travel to New York he would augment what is almost certainly the most significant European party ever to contest America's self-proclaimed equine Olympics.

While the golf may have been cancelled, the riders' cup of Breeders' Cup XVIII is still scheduled to go ahead at Belmont Park. These are strange times in the United States, the racing peculiarity being that the folk at home, for once, are not dismissing the Europeans as a fanciful group of also-rans.

The Bally's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is usually where the Americans are the sniffiest, offering generous prices about the travelling horses they believe to be slow interlopers. It is indicative of the pale nature of stateside racing late this year that, for example, Mozart in the Sprint is shorter in the futures market than he is within these shores with Coral Eurobet.

While it may be that Michael Tabor has been in Vegas with a bulging Tesco bag, there is form evidence that Mozart has persuasive prospects. Kona Gold, the reigning champion, was beaten at Santa Anita on Saturday, while Caller One, a winner in Dubai earlier this season may not be so effective when he gets into a bustling field. Mozart's largest problem seems to be a historical one, in that he goes in with the same credentials as another European champion from his Irish stable, Stravinsky.

It is an autumn when the Ballydoyle and Coolmore axis clearly aims to stamp its mark on a different continent. The current team has yet to win at a Breeders' Cup but then they have never assembled a force of such depth.

Mozart apart, they saddle Galileo in the most prodigious race on the card, the closing Classic. He will be joined by his European jousting partner of this season, Godolphin's Fantastic Light. The winners of the Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes respectively now find themselves up against a bunch of under-performing American colts. If either reproduces their turf form on the dirt of the east coast then the jealously protected prize will be leaving North America.

The home side is in disarray. Point Given and Tiznow, last year's winner, have been retired and devalued respectfully, while Albert The Great, "the beast of Belmont", did not look so ferocious in New York on Saturday night, when he trundled home 20-lengths behind Bobby Frankel's Aptitude. And that winner was well beaten in the Dubai World Cup in March.

Galileo versus Point Given for the honourable title of world champion was meant to be top of the gladiatorial bill this fall, instead we have a junior version of that clash with the same camps represented by similarly brilliant runners in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. O'Brien runs the unbeaten Johannesburg, the best European two-year-old to have hit town since Arazi crushed his field at Churchill Downs 10 years ago.

Ballydoyle may have decided that he is just a precocious juvenile, such is the aggression of the colt's first campaign. Here he has a worthy adversary in Officer, who Bob Baffert considers is potentially even better than Point Given. Certainly the betting makes him appear near unbeatable.