Peaks ready to conquer the big two

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The Independent Online
Florida has its flamingos, Santa Anita the backdrop of the blue- rinsed San Gabriel mountains, but Belmont Park is almost boringly British. For the travellers, this is good news, writes Richard Edmondson.

Heat and miles have perished many Breeders' Cup aspirations down the years, but the perceived wisdom is that if the visitors to North America cannot win in New York, they cannot win anywhere.

The Classic is the jewel. For some weeks the race has been billed as a head-to-head contest between Cigar and Halling. The former's trainer, Bill Mott, does not agree with this assessment, however. He calls it naive.

Halling's rise has been close to the meteoric. A handicap winner last year, he has mopped up the leading 10-furlong events in Europe. Cigar's elevation, though, has been even steeper. A horse who was barely above adequate on turf, he has become the talking animal of the game over here since his hooves started colliding with dirt.

This is an odd scenario. There are few precedents of a great horse who has proved mighty after humble beginnings. If Cigar has been overrated, today will reveal him. It may be best to look outside the hype, outside the front two, and consider Peaks And Valleys, whose form suggests he is approaching the first element of his name.

On weight of numbers alone, Europe's best prospects lie in the Mile, traditionally a good forum for horses that have shown their passport. The Irish filly Ridgewood Pearl has been morning line favourite this week but the impression here is that she left her season behind at Ascot last time. But circumstances may be in favour of Michael Stoute's Soviet Line. "This time last year he went from strength to strength," Walter Swinburn, the colt's rider, said. "The secret to him is the faster they go the better he comes home. As a long shot he has a good chance." Not as good, however, as the French filly Shaanxi, who appears the value consideration of the whole card.

Another French runner, Freedom Cry, has been made favourite for the Turf, but history tells us that Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runners do not fare well after this particular flight across the Atlantic. Even so, the best option appears to be another Arc contestant, Carnegie, particularly as he is appealingly coupled with the Derby runner-up Tamure in the betting.

The Sprint has been portrayed as a crap shoot between the East Coast horses Not Surprising and You And I and the twin-pronged European contingent of Lake Coniston and Hever Golf Rose. This will mean there is a chunky price about a horse who has as good a chance as any on his best form, Owington, who has improved immeasurably in his work-outs this week following the application of blinkers.