Racing: Tap's Classic turn

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The Independent Online
AMID the understandable euphoria that followed last year's Breeders' Cup, when the victories of Sheikh Albadou and Arazi demonstrated that European-trained horses can perform perfectly well on dirt, the conviction took hold that, in future, the gloves would be off. No race at the world's richest meeting, even the dollars 3m Classic itself, would be safe from the transatlantic raiders, writes Greg Wood.

It is a healthy and competitive attitude, and more than just idle talk as the entries demonstrate, with British runners nominated for all seven contests. Unfortunately, had the Americans consciously set out to discourage the burgeoning European competitiveness, they could not have chosen a better venue for this year's event than Gulfstream Park in Florida.

High-class, pampered Americans go to Florida in November for precisely the reason that high-class, pampered thoroughbreds should not. The heat is intense, and its ability to disturb horses whose body-clocks are already signalling winter must not be underestimated. Ian Balding, trainer of the Mile contender Selkirk, has already expressed misgivings about both the climate and tight turns, but in this contest there is little credible American opposition and Exit To Nowhere (2040 GMT) can prevail for Europe. Arazi, if he runs, will loathe the sun-baked track, even if bolstered by Bute.

Expect six North American successes on the rest of the card. Sheikh Albadou, gallant though he is, will struggle to peg back Furiously (1855) in the Sprint, while Eliza (1930) and Gilded Time (2115) are secure choices for the juvenile events.

Dr Devious richly deserves a final big-race success before he departs for Japan, but the Canadian-trained Sky Classic (2150) is impossible to oppose in the Turf. Versailles Treaty (1605) is the bet in the Distaff.

It takes what the Americans call an 'iron horse' to win the Classic. Rodrigo De Triano, for all his durability, will surely find the challenge of Pleasant Tap (2030) impossible to resist.

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