Racing: Byrne's night in America

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The Independent Online
Britain's finest have been and failed at every Breeders' Cup held at a warm-weather venue so it was no great jolt when the tattered troops of series XIV were ground into the Californian dirt here yesterday. Nevertheless, there was some comfort to be had from the statistic that three of the seven winners were trained by Britons, even if they are now plying their trade elsewhere.

Romford-born Pat Byrne, who took out American citizenship five years ago, claimed both Juvenile prizes, while old Etonian Jonathan Pease saddled Spinning World to win the Mile for France. And Britain's champion jockey- elect, Kieren Fallon, almost brought off victory in the Turf on the German- trained Borgia, but was just held by Canada's Chief Bearhart.

Britain has only ever found love in a cold climate and the prospect of the pattern being broken disappeared with the fracture to Singspiel's leg on Thursday.

It was both unrealistic and cruel to expect much from Royal Applause and Carmine Lake, Britain's hopes for the Sprint, as neither of them exactly have stellar reputations in their homeland and they were tossed into the cauldron of an event which is most alien to our horses. It did not take long to see them suffer. Carmine Lake spluttered in the home straight back to ninth while Royal Applause was last. Between them in 11th was the French filly, Pas De Reponse.

All the runners were escorted to post by a pony. Royal Applause could have done with a labrador in front of him during the race proper. He raced as if he had been the victim of a Mace attack. "The horse never really recovered from the start," reported Michael Hills, who looked as though he had been working in a stone quarry, sand blasted thickly on to his face. "He broke well but they were quicker early and once he got in behind the kickback was terrible and the horse couldn't take it. They're professional horses and they'd jumped on me after five strides.

"When I was trying to make him turn he couldn't see the bend because he was half blind out there. The sand was coming back in sheets and if I'd stayed on their heels it might have hit him on the chest but as it was taking him in the face."

While Elmhurst, who was formerly trained by Francois Boutin, surged through the field to victory he passed Carmine Lake going in the opposite direction. "Going into the turn she was travelling real nice, but three parts of the way round she came back on me and I knew it was all over," John Reid, the filly's partner, said. "First time on the dirt found her out. It's very different for our horses. Too different."

The crumb that fell from the table was provided by the John Gosden-trained Decorated Hero, who stuck on manfully in the Mile to collect third place behind Spinning World. The Newmarket-based horse did not have to carry the baggage of expectation and his performance was as much as could have been anticipated. "He ran his heart out," Frankie Dettori, his rider, said. "I had a lovely run down the back but in the straight we were outrun by a very good horse.

"This is his best performance and it's great to hit the board. He has been trying all year and has a heart of gold. He is number four from my Magnificent Seven [at Ascot last year] so he has always been special."

So was the day for Cash Asmussen, who was interrupting a losing sequence of 22 Breeders' Cup mounts on Spinning World, and for Pat Byrne. The latter may have been in America for 19 years and is now a citizen, but the 41- year-old avers that he is still a Brit at heart. His rise from a posting as a Reg Akehurst stable lad is now complete as he handles the two best young horses in the United States, yesterday's winners Countess Diana and Favorite Trick.

"It's a great honour and a privilege to have champions in the barn, especially two-year-old champions as I've always been fond of training young horses and developing them," he said. "It's very self-rewarding and gratifying. I'm enjoying it because in racing you never know what is just around the corner." Sadly for British horses at hot Breeders' Cups, that is not altogether true.