Racing: 1992 Breeders' Cup: Heat is turned up as Arazi heads for Mile: Climate and a tight track will hinder Europe's challenge, reports Paul Hayward from Gulfstream Park

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The Independent Online
IT WAS hot enough to sunbathe at 8 am here yesterday, an ominous meteorological detail that may force incoming European trainers to seek out Eddie Hernandez, the track chaplain, in the hope that the heat can be turned down by celestial intervention. Correct: the track chaplain.

Hernandez wears a purple satin jacket emblazoned with the legend 'Chaplain' in much the same way that a football 'Coach' might advertise his role as a mentor to the young. The six-inch embroidered white crucifix removes any remaining doubts that in difficult times, like the ones British, Irish and French horses will face in this climate, refuge can be sought in Hernandez's immaculate clapboard chapel among the palm trees of Gulfstream Park.

Not that Darrell Vienna, an American trainer, needs much guidance as he prepares his Gilded Time for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here on Saturday. Vienna, believe it or not, has a psychology degree from UCLA, is three-quarters of the way through law school, is a published poet and essayist, and has written an episode of Hill Street Blues. He also coaches his son's winter league baseball team.

To measure just how good Gilded Time is (three races, three victories), Vienna commissioned a computer study of all the past greats. He said: 'I pooled all the sheets: Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Fappiano, and none of those got to the numbers Gilded Time is at as quickly as us.' This is a seriously intellectual man, who talks about 'evaluating reality', and, when a questioner asks him whether he would ever consider running a horse with a slight viral ailment, answers, 'If you're asking me about the moral dilemma of racing . . . '

So prodigious is Vienna's mental appetite he will not even use his law degree. He will remain a racehorse trainer, which he became after working his way through the rodeo circuit ('inter-collegiate rodeo', as it happens). 'It's not a question of putting a medal on your chest,' Vienna said of his legal training. 'Other areas of your life benefit from the discipline you have to exercise (in academia).'

And so we slunk inadequately away, to a cool, shrouded place: the blackened and fenced-in quarantine unit where Arazi and his mixed reputation hide from the hordes.

Twelve months ago at racing's World Series Arazi's victory in the Juvenile was the best thing many of us thought we would see, and yet now they are calling him here 'the dark horse', and dreading the day they have to face his trainer, Francois Boutin, who so resented his treatment by the American media after that failure in the Kentucky Derby.

Yesterday Boutin settled the issue of Arazi's Breeders' Cup target by choosing the Mile, run on turf. Pat Valenzuela will ride.

If thermometer readings mean anything in sport, however, there will be European failures aplenty in this most difficult of venues. The Turf track is seven furlongs in circumference, and through the haze of the rising sun you watch thunderstruck as exercising horses swing round the un-banked bends like motorbikes buzzing through Silverstone.

Everybody recites the same betting message: a horse needs finishing speed to accelerate off these turns. Forget the big ones, the one-paced ones, the ones with the nanny-goat winter coats.

Soon, here, it will sound like a barber's shop on the eve of war. Electric clippers will chomp their way through New York coats, Kentucky coats, and those camel- like fleeces that so many European horses seemed to have at the Arc meeting in Paris. Remember Zilzal looking like he had been in one of Gazza's shaving foam fights before the Mile here in 1989? They use buckets of ice water, not puny hoses, to cool down the horses here after work.

Ron McAnally, the Hall of Famer, who trains the brilliant mare, Paseana, shared a recollection yesterday about the last time planes descended on Gulfstream from across the Atlantic (the process has been updated since then).

He said: 'I remember going into quarantine when they arrived to pick up a horse that was being sent to me. It was really humid down here in Florida. There was a plane load of horses worth dollars 100m. Zilzal was on there, and I think one of the horses had jumped out of his stall.

'All the customs guys were busy shaking down the bags of the people who had travelled with the horses, and I went up to them and said: 'Guys, you'd better get these things off this plane or you're going to have a lot of dead horses. I felt sorry for them in there.' '

First impressions are that sympathy is going to be a popular currency among the Europeans by Sunday.