Racing: Breeders' Cup: Paradise can realise California dreams: Britain's challengers are ill-prepared for this international championship, but a young American horseman looks the part

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BREEDERS' CUP afternoon in Los Angeles has arrived, a day when another breeding should again be exposed. Britain's breeding of contempt.

This is Series X according to the Americans, who like to use Roman numerals by their sporting events, but the lessons learned by Britain at the seven-race programme over the years are unfortunately close to zero.

Lesson one, and perhaps the one that overshadows all others, is that the Americans do not like surrendering these prizes, and when the squirrels and bears emerge each spring it is this batch of races that lie at the summit of the priority mountain.

Not so in Britain. Andre Fabre, the French trainer, reports he has to plan six months in advance for the series, which is a lot longer than his colleagues over La Manche. Of Britain's seven entries this year, the only horse committed publicly from long-range has been Sayyedati. Most of the others have had a traditional season before skipping along to Santa Anita, which, in terms of preparation, is like slipping on a cardigan and walking to the North Pole.

If another whitewash, like last season's at Gulfstream Park and the one the bookmakers believe will happen this afternoon, is to be avoided in future years, the Breeders' Cup has to be considered the main course and not the mints.

John Gosden, the Newmarket trainer who has seen service on both sides of the Atlantic, has an Identikit of the perfect thoroughbred for the Breeders' Cup in his mind. 'You need the right type of horse, one that's fresh and in good condition, a horse that can handle top of the ground, particularly in California,' he says. 'A horse that's adaptable, agile and quick on its feet. A horse that can get himself a position, hold his own and then have a big kick.'

There are animals that bear these credentials on show this afternoon, but unfortunately none of them seem to be British. If a long-distance traveller is to win it may well be French and Fabre-trained.

Fabre, who has In The Wings' 1990 Turf victory as well as five places in the log-book, has the advantage of all French trainers over the British here. Racing in continental Europe follows a pattern better geared to the Breeders' Cup, with a mid-summer break preceding important prizes in the autumn.

Fabre does not subscribe to the theory that America's tight circuits consign European hopes to the dustbin before the starting bell has even rung. 'The track last year was very good for European horses and if Gulfstream Park was good enough for Northern Dancer it should have been good enough for our horses,' he said.

It is difficult, however, to believe that British horses have not been bewildered by their new environment this week. Aesthetically, the morning work of pale figures in half-light can have few comparisons on the globe, but the package at Santa Anita must be a shock to Europeans.

Luca Cumani's Barathea, who produced such an admirable display in the spring when chasing home Zafonic in the 2,000 Guineas on a windy and open Rowley Mile, must now hare his way round a hairpin track in the warmth. His race, the Mile, is run on a turf course inside a dirt track tight in its own right. If he manages to stay in touch around the street-corners, he will have a straight about half as long as a traditional British course, such as York, to make up his ground.

Barathea's race, which also features Gosden's Catrail and Wolfhound, may go to a Fabre horse, Ski Paradise, especially as the favourite, Lure, has been allotted a dreadful draw.

The three races which go ahead without British involvement are the two juvenile races, in which Dehere and Heavenly Prize should be successful, and the Distaff, which looks bound for Hollywood Wildcat.

The size of the task confronting Sayyedati and Surprise Offer in the Sprint can be gauged by the fact that both have been bracketed in the betting with Monde Bleu as 'the field', the rank outsiders. Birdonthewire should win this one.

Ezzoud's prospects in the Classic, the meeting's most valuable race at dollars 3m ( pounds 2m) on a day when each of the seven races is worth at least dollars 1m, are no more rosy. He may be looking up the straight at Bertrando.

Opera House is deemed to have the best chance of the British batch of runners in the Turf, but you could not bet on him beating Intrepidity, with whom he will be coupled in the pool. Bet instead on the lessons of history and the lessons not yet fully learned, and back Britain to come home empty-handed.

(Photograph omitted)

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