Racing: Asmussen defends raiders' riding ability

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The Independent Online

The chatter starts this morning, weighing up the merits of the European and American horses which will contest Breeders' Cup XX at Santa Anita, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, on Saturday. Comparative discussion regarding the jockey talents from either continent is a far more enduring topic.

If you listen to some turf commentators Stateside, even the most learned, you might imagine that the great names of European riding could not even make a decent fist of Totopoly. According to them, the travelling jockeys are just useless.

It is an opinion which has extended to the weighing room. Jerry Bailey, America's leading rider, made it an issue at a Breeders' Cup when he said he recognised a British rider in a race, in this particular case Walter Swinburn, because "he was kinda flopping around".

Thus, if a non-American jockey makes a mistake on Saturday it will be the most highlighted moment of his season. It adds to the pressure on the pilot and also to those which employ him.

Already Bailey is a beneficiary of this phenomenon. He will be the partner of the fancied Six Perfections in the Mile in preference to Thierry Thulliez, whose thrilling execution on Domedriver in the same race in Chicago 12 months ago is not sufficient to secure a seat this time around.

Domedriver's race last year brought down a Vesuvius of derision on Mick Kinane, the rider of Rock Of Gibraltar. It was not the first time the Irishman had been the victim of transatlantic ridicule. In the millennium Classic, in which he partnered Giant's Causeway, Kinane dropped the reins close home. His name has not been dropped in polite racing conversation in the States ever since.

Yet for the greatest scorn we must refer to the best known jockey on this side of the Pond, Frankie Dettori. He may have tried to obliterate the recollection of steering Swain half-way across the track in the Classic at Churchill Downs in 1998 but others have not been so willing to let the subject fade away.

The partisanship is, according to some of the best qualified, horribly misplaced. "In the last 20 years the riders from Europe have become much more well-rounded, mainly because of their exposure to other parts of the world," Cash Asmussen, the yankee who served at the French court for so many years, says. "So they're not just European class. They're world class.

"I could name at least 10 riders who would not be at a disadvantage by going over to America to ride," Asmussen adds. "There are the opinions of riders in the stands and the opinions of someone like me, who's ridden inside the last two furlongs about 500 times with some of these guys."

Pat Eddery, another winning Breeders' Cup rider, is of a similar opinion. "The people who invest their money in the horses, rather than those guys who invest in the [betting] windows, they have a pretty good idea of what's going on," he said.

"The best jockeys in Europe are the best jockeys," the Irishman says. "If you give them the right horse they will get the job done. You can't say the Americans are better than us. That's a load of rubbish.

"If the American jockeys say that themselves then it's very bad taste. Godolphin have had some of them over here [when Chris McCarron was noticeably uncomfortable at Epsom] and we've never criticised them. I don't see why they should criticise us.

"I've heard it said that European jockeys are not as good at the gate. It's got nothing to do with them. The horses are the difference. The American horses are trained to jump and run, ours are taught to to come out relaxed. Before you know where you are there are 10 horses to go past." The critics will be more steeply banked on Saturday.

Racing in brief: American post a supplementary entry for Group One finale

* American Post will attempt to forward his claims to be Europe's champion juvenile when he tackles the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday. The French-trained colt, winner of the Grand Criterium at Longchamp on his latest start, was one of three horses supplemented yesterday at a cost of £17,500, along with Fantastic View and Cape Fear, for Britain's final Group One race of the season.

* The Jeremy Noseda-trained Balmont, only seventh in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, was found to be lame after the race. "On Sunday morning we found he was lame on his near-fore foot. He had popped an abscess in the heel," Noseda said.

* Ludlow have been forced to abandon Thursday's card due to the prevailing dry conditions. After an inspection yesterday, the ground was found to be hard in places.

* The John Gosden-trained Doctrine faces seven rivals when raised to Group Three class in the Prix des Reservoirs at Deauville today.

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