America's finest threaten to block Giant's Causeway

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The Independent Online

Dubai Millennium and King's Best have gone, Montjeu and Sinndar too, probably, and of the five great colts these islands could show off to the Americans this season just Giant's Causeway remains.

Dubai Millennium and King's Best have gone, Montjeu and Sinndar too, probably, and of the five great colts these islands could show off to the Americans this season just Giant's Causeway remains.

They are still heaping coal into the Iron Horse after nine runs this year, a campaign which will climax next month at Breeders' Cup XVII at Louisville's Churchill Downs, the spiritual home of American racing.

Giant's Causeway will launch his career on dirt in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the centrepiece of a spectacular eight-race card. If he wins they will come after him in the night, torches in their hands.

The Classic, like the Kentucky Derby, is a racing jewel Stateside and it may be that the Americans have a horse to win both this year. When you name a horse Fusaichi Pegasus you might be asking for trouble, but the $4m yearling justified the bombast in the Run for the Roses back in May.

There have, however, been injury problems since, and Fusaichi Pegasus, trained by the English-born Neil Drysdale, has only recently returned to rescue the reputation of his generation. "Without Fusaichi Pegasus the three-year-olds would be in real trouble," Alan Schuback, of the Daily Racing Form in America, says. "Most of the good ones have gone by the wayside and they weren't that good to start off with. This year's Belmont Stakes [the third leg of the Triple Crown] was almost certainly the worst since World War II, maybe even since World War I.''

Last year's Belmont was won by Lemon Drop Kid, who has blossomed into a horse of distinction. His trainer, Scotty Schulhofer, switched jockeys from Jose Santos to Edgar Prado in mid-season and also put blinkers on the horse. At least one of the factors worked. If either Lemon Drop Kid or Fusaichi Pegasus wins the Classic, they will also collect the US Horse of the Year title. "With those two and Giant's Causeway it should be a terrific race," Schuback says.

If we could spread our top guard to include fillies then Petrushka would be deserving of instant membership. Mike Watchmaker, the outspoken oddsmaker at the Daily Racing Form, has pegged her as favourite for the Filly and Mares Turf, and Coral Eurobet have Britain's outstanding filly as their shortest-priced favourite on the whole card.

As the Breeders' Cup series is held at Churchill Downs for the fifth time, Europe may be represented in seven of the eight races, the Juvenile Fillies being the likely exception.

When the championships were held on this site in 1994, Luca Cumani was successful in the Mile with Barathea. Even though there has been something of a plague on Bedford House this season, Cumani may end the campaign with a splash as he has the second favourite for this year's Mile in Arkadian Hero. He lost at least eight lengths at the start of the Group One Atto Mile at Woodbine in Toronto last month, yet was only beaten a nose.

There are prospects too for Fantastic Light in the Turf, and Godolphin's runner will have the benefit of perhaps the most possessed rider on the night. Last time Frankie Dettori was in town he beat Swain across the track in the Classic and got similar treatment himself in the American media.

Dettori survived that and even worse this year and has determined to return to Churchill Downs to show his true worth. For that, at least, Breeders' Cup XVII deserves our attention.

BREEDERS' CUP XVII (Churchill Downs, Louisville) 4 November: Coral Eurobet prices (European trainers in brackers): Breeders' Cup Mile: 7-2 Hap, 4-1 Arkadian Hero (Luca Cumani), 9-2 Ladies Din, 6-1 Riviera, 8-1 Affirmed Success, 10-1 Super Quercus, 12-1 War Chant, 14-1 Altibr, 16-1 Bertolini & Diktat (both Godolphin); Breeders' Cup Sprint: 7-2 Caller One & Kona Gold, 6-1 Forest Camp, 8-1 More Than Ready, 10-1 Nuclear Debate (John Hammond) & Trippi; Breeders' Cup Fillies and Mares Turf: 2-1 Petrushka (Michael Stoute), 4-1 Perfect Sting, 6-1 Ela Athena (Michael Jarvis), 8-1 Happyanunoit & Mouramara (John Oxx), 10-1 Snow Polina, 12-1 Beyond The Waves (Jonathan Pease); Breeders' Cup Turf: 3-1 Fantastic Light (Godolphin), 6-1 Manndar, 8-1 Bienamado & Ciro, 12-1 Ela Athena (Michael Jarvis), Fruits of Love (Mark Johnston) & King Cugat, 14-1 Down The Aisle & Mutamam (Alec Stewart); Breeders' Cup Classic: 9-4 Lemon Drop Kid, 7-2 Fusaichi Pegasus, 4-1 Giant's Causeway (Aidan O'Brien), 10-1 Behrens, 12-1 Captain Steve, 14-1 Cat Thief & Tiznow.