You wonder why we bother. There is the money, of course, but beyond that there also seems to be a touching belief in the God-given supremacy of British-trained thoroughbreds, for which the Breeders' Cup offers an ideal stage. The only problem is that no one has told the Americans. Or, for that matter, the Canadians or the French.
Just two British-trained horses have won Breeders' Cup races on the Flat, the most recent being Sheikh Albadou in the 1991 Sprint. After the whitewashes at Gulfstream in 1992 and Santa Anita last year, the lessons seemed clear. To compete with the home- trained runners, British horses would need to be prepared throughout the year with the Breeders' Cup in mind, and travel early to allow sufficient time to acclimatise.
But no one was listening. Lochsong and her compatriots will go to post feeling the effects of a long flight and a longer season. Lochsong in particular must race around an unfamiliar sharp bend on a foreign surface against runners who will clear the stalls even faster than she does. It is hard to see anyone but the British bookies, who will find takers no matter how short their odds, cheering the result.
Even the Turf, over 12 furlongs, may be a forlorn target this year if Paradise Creek, winner of the Washington International at Laurel Park on Saturday night, remains fit and eager for another three weeks. Bill Mott's Arlington Million winner was recording his eighth win in nine starts, and quickened clear of a good field without any serious encouragement from Pat Day.
'He took me into the lead very easily,' Day said, 'and when we got there I was waiting for the others to run at me, but they never caught up.' Paradise Creek beat Redcall by five and a half lengths, with Beneficial, having his last run for Geoff Wragg, a commendable third. The French challenger Marildo was sixth, with Paul Cole's Zoman, who suffered an injury during the race, ninth.
If the Europeans are to emerge from Kentucky with any credit, the French runners once again seem the most obvious source. The omens were everywhere over the weekend, with the successes of Pennekamp in the Dewhurst Stakes on Friday and Dernier Empereur in the Champion Stakes the following day rounded off yesterday, when Bigstone beat off an impressive challenge from Britain and Ireland in the Group One Prix de la Foret at Longchamp. Missed Flight, trained by Chris Wall, was a short-neck second to Elie Lellouche's colt, who is now a leading candidate for the Breeders' Cup Mile.
It is not many years since such a concerted run of success for French-trained runners would have given rise to mournful predictions of a terminal decline in British racing. That this is no longer the case is a sign of the growing confidence throughout the industry. Though it is no cause for satisfaction, the French now have problems of their own with falling betting turnover and poor organisation, of which the 75-minute delay before Bigstone's success was confirmed yesterday was only the latest evidence.
It is still far from perfect, but British racing is on an upswing at present. The warm glow of optimism must survive, whatever disasters may await us in Kentucky.
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