Racing: Europeans fear the Texan turns

The Breeders' Cup taskforce of Britain and Europe will try out the track here at Lone Star Park for the first time this morning and, climactically, it may not be the shocking experience many had predicted.

The Breeders' Cup taskforce of Britain and Europe will try out the track here at Lone Star Park for the first time this morning and, climactically, it may not be the shocking experience many had predicted.

Strange weather, typical British autumnal stuff, has arrived deep in the heart of Texas, three inches of rain visiting just overnight. Dallas-Fort Worth was closed for a period as storms ringed the airport, but the European craft touched down safely at Dallas Love Field on Monday afternoon.

All the horses, but not all their attendants, were present. The transatlantic plane started out from France with the Continental contingent, first stopping at Shannon to collect Aidan O'Brien's five-strong team. A shuttle plane from Cambridge also brought to Ireland the two British runners, the Newmarket-based Ouija Board and Wilko.

However, John Davies, the travelling head lad to the latter's trainer, Jeremy Noseda, was turned back at Shannon by American authorities. Wilko, who will continue his career in the United States after Saturday, now has just work rider Joe Scally for company.

There will be a great raft of European runners at the Breeders' Cup of Belmont Park in 12 months' time, a venue established as European-friendly. This rotation, though, the first at Lone Star, seems to have been afflicted by fear of the unknown, an absence of pioneer spirit. It may be a sensation well placed.

The first striking impression of Lone Star is its very size. Or lack of it. The track is shaped like a bar of soap, and one that has had a few showers at that.

There is an aquatic infield, de rigueur on North American courses, along with Canada geese and squabbling crows. There is also a sense of last-minute industry as finishing touches are put to 30,000-plus temporary seats introduced for the 21st running of the world thoroughbred championships. They may not be the top ticket.

Texans like to refer to theirs as the "Can Do" state, but an element they cannot tame are the elements themselves. Further rain and storms are predicted all week, a worrying forecast for those in the bleachers. The event is already a sell-out.

Team Europe will clear this morning just as long as blood samples taken behind the grey walls of the quarantine barn and shipped off to Ames, in Iowa, for laboratory testing prove clear.

This process has already been undertaken by Personal Rush, the Japanese horse who added a splash of colour to a drab morning yesterday. He was a glory in pink headgear, beautifully co- ordinated with the body protector of his jockey and assistant trainer Ken Ando.

Personal Rush is the property of Tomiro Fukami who, along with Greta Kuntzweiler, partner to the former Brian Meehan-trained Freefourinternet in the Classic, is the name of the games.

Britain's team, the smallest in 21 years of the championships, has in Ouija Board a runner of much promise. The dual Oaks winner and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe third has arrived in Grand Prairie in pleasing condition.

"She flies better than she travels in the van," Robin Trevor Jones, assistant to trainer Ed Dunlop, said outside the quarantine block yesterday.

"She looks a million dollars in there. Very summery. She's definitely not gone in her coat." The chosen objective for Ouija Board comes today. Dunlop would doubtless prefer to know his draw first - a high number in the Filly & Mare Turf would be a cemetery position - but he does not possess that luxury. The Turf, a furlong longer and against the colts, remains an option.

An international jockeys' challenge takes place here tomorrow, when American Hall Of Famers Jerry Bailey, Pat Day and Kent Desormeaux will take on, among others, the European crew of Frankie Dettori, Kieren Fallon, Jamie Spencer and Christophe Soumillon. They, and we, should learn much from the exercise.

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