Racing: The Singspiel show at Hollywood

Sue Montgomery expects two of the Europe team to prevail at the Breeders' Cup
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The Independent Online
With Britain's trainers largely declining to go west, the transatlantic gold rush to Saturday's Breeders' Cup races is more of a shuffle than a stampede this year. Despite the $11m (pounds 6.6m) up for grabs at Hollywood Park in six days' time, the raiding party from these shores numbers only four. And with just three from France, one each from Ireland and Germany, the nine-strong squad from Team Europe is the smallest in 14 runnings of the series.

But the apparent lack of enthusiasm for the project stems, in the opinion of John Gosden, not so much from the distance to be travelled and the unfavourable climate and track to be faced but from the fact that two of the European challengers appear to be unbeatable.

"Singspiel should win the Turf and Spinning World the Mile," he said. "They are two exceptional horses, people over here know they are and there is a disinclination to go all that way just to be beaten by them. It's an expensive business by the time you've entered, got there and stayed there, and you'd want to be pretty sure of having a chance of winning to make the effort."

No British-trained horse has won at Hollywood Park, one of the tightest of America's left-handed ovals, though two from France have succeeded, Lashkari in the inaugural Turf in 1984 and Miesque in the Mile three years later. Gosden, who won the inaugural Mile with Royal Heroine when he was based in California and lets Decorated Hero take his chance in the same race this time, said: "The conditions on the West Coast are not great for European horses, but at least the heat is a dry heat. There is not the terrible humidity of Florida."

The Europeans are involved in three of the seven races on the programme, the Sprint on dirt and the Mile and the Turf on grass. The record of the Europeans has been patchy over the years, with 15 victories (only four from Britain) and 27 places from 205 runners.

Unsurprisingly, the best European results over the years have come in the two races run on grass, the Mile and the 12- furlong Turf, with six wins in each. Spinning World, trained by France's Jonathan Pease, and Singspiel, by Michael Stoute, are both favourites to go one better than their second places in Toronto last year.

Singspiel had only his stablemate Pilsudski - heading for the Japan Cup later in the month this time - in front of him last year, and was followed in by Swain and Shantou, giving Europe a clean sweep. With the American grass horses, headed by Val's Prince, reportedly not a vintage bunch, a repeat is perfectly possible, with the Arc third Borgia, bidding to become Germany's first Breeders' Cup winner and the high-class filly Dance Design from Ireland and France's consistent Majorien backing up.

Wednesday's draw for places at the start is likely to play a leading role. In the six-furlong sprint - where the Prix de l'Abbaye 1-2-3, Carmine Lake (Peter Chapple-Hyam), Pas De Reponse (Criquette Head) and Royal Applause (Barry Hills), go for Europe - an outside berth is desirable to avoid bunching, but in the Mile, with the first turn only 150 metres from the gate, an inside position is favourable.

Sheikh Mohammed's decision to go for the $2m Turf with his Dubai World Cup winner Singspiel, rather than the $4m Classic, has caused some surprise, but the Sheikh may be taking a longer view. Another defeat for American dirt horses by a European might discourage their participation at Nad El Sheba next March, when a showdown between the winners of the Turf and the Classic would be some bout to stage.

The 10-furlong Classic, for which Skip Away and Touch Gold are favourites, is the climax of the meeting, and the only race which will be shown live on TV, by Channel 4 at around 10.35pm.

On Tuesday two more of Britain's globetrotters provide a taster to the action in California. Harbour Dues, trained by Lady Herries, and the Queen's handsome grey Arabian Story, handled by Lord Huntingdon, will contest the Melbourne Cup at Flemington. But only one horse from the Northern Hemisphere, the Irish-trained Vintage Crop three years ago, has succeeded in the race that has become an Australian institution since it was first run in 1861.