Racing / Breeder's Cup: Europe to find pay dirt elusive: Surface unfamiliarity undermines Europe's challenge, while American racing faces questions on drugs

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The Independent Online
IT IS perhaps appropriate that the first horse to attract punters' money this week for Saturday's Breeders' Cup is called Fairy Garden. Finding a winner in the seven-race series at Santa Anita, California, could prove as elusive as a sprite.

Whoever forced Fairy Garden's odds yesterday from 33-1 to 20-1 with Ladbrokes for the Turf has either got a long memory - the filly was trained in France until late 1991 and has a handicap success at Longchamp to her credit - or is rather more conversant with North American form than most of the punters who will be tempted to try and find winners for races in which the names of many of the protagonists will be unfamiliar.

Best then to stick to the two races run on grass, the Turf and the Mile, where at least a hefty percentage of the runners are either trained in Europe or began their careers there. There is also a history of success to bolster confidence as in the nine years of the Breeders' Cup each event has been won by transatlantic travellers four times (the Mile by Last Tycoon in 1986, Miesque in 87 and 88 and Royal Academy in 90; the Turf by Lashkari in 84, Pebbles in 85, In The Wings in 90 and and Miss Alleged in 91).

This year, however, there are seemingly formidable local opponents, Lure in the Mile and Kotashaan in the Turf. Lure's credentials are impregnable: the winner of five of his seven races this year, and of this event at Gulfstream Park in 1992, he has the speed to be able to come from any position or, as he did last year, keep out of trouble by making all. Kotashaan's form looks less secure and at around 6-4 his odds may be a little skinny against the likes of Opera House and Hatoof.

With the ability to match a fast early pace at a premium, Hatoof could represent Europe's best opportunity in the Turf. Quick enough to win last year's 1,000 Guineas, she has had the benefit of a light year culminating in a victory in the Champion Stakes. She is 5-1 with the Tote but 10-1 with Ladbrokes.

Similarly in the Mile, John Gosden's pair, Catrail and Wolfhound, have the ability to match strides with any sprinter in Europe over six furlongs and may be able to eke out their stamina round the tight bends. Gosden has more experience of American tracks than any of the other visiting trainers and won the inaugural running of this event with Royal Heroine. Catrail, 16-1 with Coral, has the greater scope for progress of his runners.

The first of the European contingent touched down in California yesterday, with France's 24 challengers arriving in the cool of the early morning. The more compact British party of eight Breeders' Cup runners were expected at 2.30pm local time, when temperatures are in the 80s Fahrenheit.

Despite a 23-hour journey, the French horses, headed by Bigstone, Hatoof, Intrepidity and Hernando, looked bright and well though their coats had a shaggy winter look.

Quarantine, which is expected to last for 24 to 36 hours, is eased by a new facility in the stable area of the racecourse and Sayyedati, who is going for the Sprint on the dirt, will experience American stalls for the first time tomorrow morning. She will be put through her paces by Brett Doyle, who will be preparing her for the fast start which is so essential. The dirt track is just a mile round and the turf course even sharper at just over seven furlongs.

(Photograph omitted)