Racing: Gosden loses in Catrail dispute: Sheikh Mohammed's adviser overrules his trainer as a top sprinter dishes the dirt option

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The Independent Online
THE heat rose to an uncomfortable level a little earlier than usual at Santa Anita yesterday, as Sheikh Mohammed's Catrail became the focus of a dispute between his trainer, John Gosden, and the owner's racing manager, Anthony Stroud. At issue was the colt's target at Saturday's Breeders' Cup meeting; Gosden favoured the Sprint, on dirt, while Stroud argued for the Mile, on Turf.

Stroud was the winner on points, his principal one being that 'the more bullets you have, the better your chances (the Sheikh already has Wolfhound and Barathea, in which he owns a half share, in the Mile).

'The Sprint is very, very difficult,' he added, because the track is very fast and they go a terrific pace. Catrail likes a stiff six furlongs rather than this easy six.'

Gosden's view was that 'it is a question of the quality of the opposition. The Mile is a strong race while the Sprint is not. Catrail is bred for the dirt but has not raced on it.' If he ever does, it will not be this year.

Gosden was speaking as the British-trained horses left their 48-hour quarantine early yesterday morning and took their first look at the compact Santa Anita track. Most of their connections were, as usual, talking a good fight.

Michael Stoute defended his International Stakes winner, Ezzoud, against charges of inconsistency and dubious temperament, but admitted that only on Saturday night will it become clear whether he can produce his best form on dirt. Even Ezzoud's best form might not be enough - he faces perhaps the hardest task of all in the dollars 3m Classic - and Stoute has a more realistic contender in Opera House, who may be given the pain-killer Bute before contesting the Turf.

Stoute's two-horse challenge appears feeble beside that of Andre Fabre, the French champion, whose 14-runner team for the meeting (eight will contest the Breeders' Cup races) is the largest ever assembled by a European trainer at an American event. Yesterday, Fabre completed the considerable task of finding them jockeys, though anyone wanting clues to Fabre's assessment of their chances may be frustrated.

In the Turf, the trainer has engaged Gary Stevens (Intrepidity), Pat Eddery (Wemyss Bight), Mike Smith (Apple Tree) and Jose Santos (Serrant), while his stable jockey, Thierry Jarnet, will be legged up on to Dernier Empereur. The last of those attracted strong support with Coral yesterday, who cut his odds to 12-1 from 20-1.

Jarnet will also partner Ski Paradise in the Mile, while Pat Eddery, the only British-based jockey to ride a Breeders' Cup winner, is on Monde Bleu in the Sprint. Jerry Bailey will hold the reins on Fabre's final runner, the quietly fancied Arcangues in the Classic.

History shows that if any of the Europeans are going to succeed, it will most likely be one with Fabre's initials on its saddle-cloth. Few of his runners at the series have finished out of the frame, giving him one success (In The Wings three years ago), three runners-up and three more third places.

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