Racing: Hope lies in Da Hoss man

Breeders' Cup XV: Britain's best chances are with the expatriate Michael Dickinson
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The Independent Online
YOU DON'T come to Louisville on holiday. You don't take many photographs unless the battered hulks on the deeply grey Ohio River take your fancy.

But, when it comes to racing, attendance in this part of America's mid- South is a must. Churchill Downs is the home of the sport in the United States, an amphitheatre which has been designed, in great greedy Yankee style, to accommodate over 160,000 spectators.

About 70,000 folk are expected to be peppered around the place when Breeders' Cup XV - the seven-race equine Olympics - is launched today. Sky Sports Three will stage a four and a half hour programme this evening, during which they will show all seven races live. It is an opportunity to get a flavour of how they do things equine in the States.

Michael Dickinson knows the sensation well, having moved from good old Blighty to America 11 years ago to establish himself as a figure of substance on a different continent. It may well be that he strikes a victory of some sort this afternoon for Britain.

Dickinson leads up Da Hoss, who won the Mile at Woodbine in Canada two years ago, but has since spent much time in the sick bay. Da Hoss has had just one run since, last month in an allowance race at Colonial Downs, but it seems as if the pages of the calendar have turned over just in time for him.

Da Hoss only just got into the Mile because the field pickers thought he might be gone. Their patience and memory may be about to reap a reward.

"They [the Breeders' Cup panel] said he was being asked to do something that no horse has ever done before, that is come back after two years and be as good as he was," Dickinson said. "He's battling injuries and an absence of two years and he's a six-year-old.

"But now he's very well and in good form and it's a miracle he's here at all. Tuesday night was the first night I slept without waking up for six weeks. He's going as well as he was into Woodbine when he won."

Da Hoss (8.10) has an ideal draw in the number two box for a contest in which the lottery is usually significant. There are 77yds to the first turn, less than the span of four cricket pitches, and there will be nothing genteel when the limbs and hooves crash together in that opening, and often vital, scrimmage. The draw has also been kind to Europe's hopes, Cape Cross Among Men and Desert Prince, who have prospects as they can all scoot up the rail.

Dickinson can also succeed with Cetewayo (9.25), named after the Zulu chief at Rorke's Drift. The four-year-old ran in the Man O'War Stakes at Belmont Park in September, during which he got one of the more unlikely comments in running: "Fell into hedge".

Cetewayo was, in fact, lucky to escape with his life following a horrible fall but does not seem to have let the near-death experience affect him. "He could have broken his neck because he went right over in a somersault," Dickinson said "but now he's got a chance.

"His strengths are that he gets a mile and a half, he loves the grass and he has a great turn of foot. He will be competitive and, if he was 10-1, I would bet him across the board. [win, place and show]." Our Royal Anthem and Daylami may be among the victims.

In the Juvenile the story seems to be that the American two-year-olds are not up to much and that gives Paul Cole's Red Sea a chance, especially as he is reported to be in sleek condition. However, preference is still for a home boy, The Groom Is Red (6.25).

A lot of Pick Six coupons will hit the floor if there are defeats in the Juvenile Fillies for Silverbulletday (7.00) and the Distaff for Banshee Breeze (8.45).

Europe is represented in the Sprint by Bolshoi, who may not win but will certainly be in last place in the early stages of the dash. The one that is likely to be at the head come the wire is Wild Rush (7.35), which we can again claim as one of our own as his trainer, Pat Byrne, was born in Romford.

And that leaves us with the Classic for which the tiny boast is that this may be the greatest race ever to burst from a starting stall. Swain is undoubtedly under-rated by the big mouths here, but is still just short of the keenest quality required. Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby victor and winner of this year's Dubai World Cup, is a worthy contender, but, if the finale is to have meaning, we must have a victory and a new world career-earnings record for Skip Away (10.05).

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