Racing: No pay dirt for Tamarisk

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The Independent Online
FIFTEEN EUROPEAN runners are, rather neatly, expected to contest Breeders' Cup XV at Churchill Downs, Kentucky, a week on Saturday, but, for the time being, it is the absentees which are generating most controversy.

Of all the horses that failed to make the cut yesterday the most notable was Tamarisk, who won the Sprint Cup at Haydock last month for Roger Charlton. That Group One form, it seems, is not good enough.

The colt has since been transferred to D Wayne Lukas's sprawling stable and last week made his Stateside debut at Keeneland. He finished last. If he had not run at all he would almost certainly be in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Lukas said afterwards that Tamarisk was short on condition. The entry panel believe alternatively that he is short on dirt-track ability. "That run at Keeneland was so bad that it seems he didn't deserve a run over some of these horses on dirt," Lenny Hale, the chairman of the Breeders' Cup international panel, said yesterday.

"On his European form he would be the pick of our entries," Nigel Gray, the BHB handicapper, said. "But now he's had a go on the surface and in the conditions. Bolshoi [Jack Berry's runner, who gets in] has not yet tried the different circumstances and therefore the panel felt he should be given a shot. If Tamarisk hadn't run he would probably have got in."

Bolshoi went for a preparatory spin around Wolverhampton's contours last weekend and reportedly handled the kickback respectably. He is 33- 1 with Victor Chandler. Tamarisk, were he running, would be considerably shorter. He beat Bolshoi a length and three-quarters at Haydock. Logic was left even further behind yesterday.

No shot then for Tamarisk, but there will be plenty of shots on offer for the 12 British horses, Caitano from Germany, Second Empire and his Irish compatriot Sunshine Street, who is expected to get in the Turf as a reserve. Under Kentucky law, horses can run on Lasix, which prevents burst blood vessels. That has to be declared, unlike the painkiller Bute, which can also be administered.

Syringes containing anti-depressants may also be in frequent use this week among British jockeys. They, like Tamarisk, are not rated highly when tried in the United States.

Richard Quinn has already been jocked off Leggera, Kieren Fallon's seat removed from Royal Anthem's saddle and yesterday came confirmation that Running Stag, Philip Mitchell's Classic aspirant, would be yet another united with an American partner rather than a salt from Blighty.

"Olivier Peslier was a possibility, but we had the chance to use John Velazquez and I felt that was the right thing to do," Mitchell said. "He's high class, in the top five in the States.

"We've got world-class jockeys in the United Kingdom and Europe, but on a home track I think you've got to go with the local guy. If I had a runner at Haydock I would rather use Kieren Fallon than John Velazquez because he knows where he's going and this is just the same situation in reverse. In a race like this you need every edge you can get."

That attitude will stretch to the pharmaceuticals and Running Stag, who is a dismissive 100-1 with William Hill, will definitely run on Lasix and perhaps also on Bute. "There is no point taking them on on unfavourable terms," Mitchell added. "The horse trained on it yesterday and the lads said there was a big improvement.

"What we're attempting here is like trying to climb Mount Everest and I need every aid I can get. If I could stick an Exocet up there somewhere I would."

Running Stag's task, in the parlance, is truly awesome. Ranged against him in the Classic will be Skip Away, who is on the verge of breaking Cigar's earnings record, Silver Charm, Touch Gold and Arch, who could be the best three-year-old in America. Swain, from Europe, is not a bad old horse either.

Such a congregation is too much to ignore for the Breeders' Cup publicists. We got the star-spangled sell yesterday. We got an introduction to phrases you do not hear on many building sites over here. "It [the Classic] may be the best race ever to come out of a starting gate," D G Van Clief jnr, the Breeders' Cup President, said. "And overall this might be the strongest Breeders' Cup for 15 years from a qualitative standpoint." Quite so.

There are two obvious instances when the hosts might be disappointed from a defeat standpoint. Henry Cecil's Royal Anthem, who won the Canadian International at Woodbine earlier this month, beating Chief Bearheart, last year's Turf winner, is a best-priced 5-2 with Ladbrokes for that event. Ladbrokes are also biggest about the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner, Desert Prince, who is 7-2 for the Mile.