Xenophobia: Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners, or anything that is strange or foreign. --Dictionary definition
There might be some xenophobes among American horsemen today, the result of the seven Breeders’ Cup races Saturday at Churchill Downs. Three horses from Europe and one from Canada won, the best showing by the international invaders since the Breeders’ Cup began in 1984.
For a time it appeared that European horses might win two races on dirt and none on grass, the only surface used for racing in Great Britain and France. Before Saturday, European runners had tried Breeders’ Cup dirt races 29 times, with the best finishes two seconds last year at Belmont Park, by Dayjur in the Sprint and Ibn Bey in the Classic.
In Saturday’s Sprint, Sheikh Albadou rallied through the stretch for a three-length victory. Sheikh Albadou, who was foaled in England, had a good record as a sprinter overseas yet was virtually ignored by the bettors at Churchill Downs and went off at 26-1.
The Mile on turf had given Europeans four of their seven previous victories in the Breeders’ Cup. They stood another good chance this time, with six horses running and Priolo and Polar Falcon given excellent chances. Instead, the winner was Opening Verse, an American-based longshot whose career began in Europe two years ago.
The race after the Mile, the Juvenile, gave the Europeans their second dirt victory. Arazi, American-bred but strictly French-raced, scored one of the most spectacular victories ever in the Breeders’ Cup. The smallish 2-year-old colt started out next to last, more than 10 lengths behind, then flashed past the field. He easily caught front-running Bertrando, the undefeated colt from California, to win by a margin that was officially listed as 4 3/4 lengths. Many observers thought Arazi’s margin was more than that.
The next race was the Turf, which the Europeans had won three times. Miss Alleged, a French filly, won by a half-length and paid $86.20. Miss Alleged’s record was so spotty that she had been placed in the mutuel field, a group of horses considered to have the least chance of winning, and she became the first field horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
The other foreign winner Saturday was Dance Smartly in the Distaff. She represented a breakthrough for the Canadians, who had seen 18 of their homebreds go winless in other Breeders’ Cups.
On Sunday, Alexander Scott, who trains Sheikh Albadou, was asked if the foreigners’ majority rule this year would give them more confidence in future Breeders’ Cups.
“Actually,” Scott said, “we had been given a lot of encouragement the year before, when Dayjur and Ibn Bey ran so well on dirt. Ibn Bey had been running much longer distances than a mile and a quarter (the Classic distance). He was a 6-year-old and hadn’t run at a mile and a quarter since he had been a 2-year-old.”
There had been much criticism of the international handicapping panel that had excluded Quiet American, a California horse, from the Classic and chosen Ibn Bey to run. Both horses probably belonged in the race, because at the finish there was Ibn Bey, finishing only a length behind Unbridled.
Dayjur would have been the best horse in the Sprint, but he jumped shadows near the finish and lost by a neck to Safely Kept.
Arazi’s overpowering victory was no surprise to Wayne Lukas, the trainer who has won 10 Breeders’ Cup races. Lukas expected Arazi to run well, not because of what he knew about the horse, but because of his knowledge of the trainer, Francois Boutin. Arazi was the third Breeders’ Cup winner for Boutin, who saddled Miesque to win the Mile in 1987 and ’88.
“I haven’t seen the horse, not even on tape,” Lukas said early last week. “But I know Boutin, and he wouldn’t be running a horse here if he didn’t think he had a good chance. Boutin has got it figured out about what it takes to win in the Breeders’ Cup.”
American horses seldom venture to Europe to run. Fourstars Allstar, a New York-bred, went to The Curragh this year and won the 2,000 Guineas, the first leg in Ireland’s Triple Crown, but such victories are rare.
“It’s almost impossible to go over there and win,” said Ron McAnally, the Southland-based trainer. “Their courses are all different, and they run up and down hills, and our horses just aren’t used to that. To make the effort, you would have to commit to shipping a horse over there six months ahead of the race and giving him a solid indoctrination. But American trainers, most of them, don’t have the luxury of having the time to do that. It’s easier for a horse to do the opposite, leave the up-and-down racing and come to our flat tracks.”
The adjustment from grass to dirt has been made easier for English horses because of two training surfaces there called Equitrack, a synthetic sand-and-fiber material that has been used unsuccessfully for racing in the United States.
“Sheikh Albadou had two workouts over Equitrack before we brought him over,” Scott said. “The second workout was a half-mile, and my stopwatch showed that he did it in :46 2/5.”
Bettors at Churchill Downs would have appreciated that tidbit. The Racing Times listed Sheikh Albadou’s quick workout, but the Daily Racing Form, the newspaper with the larger circulation, did not have it.
Something else that might have helped European horses Saturday was the cool weather, which they are accustomed to. Many American horses were having their first taste of fall, when the temperature in Louisville--which had been 80 degrees earlier in the week--dropped into the 40s on Breeders’ Cup day.
Next year, the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Gulfstream Park in South Florida, where the temperature was 79 degrees when the races were run there in 1989.
“The climate might not be as conducive (to European horses’ success) in Miami as it was here,” Scott said Sunday while the temperature was dropping some more, to the mid-20s. It would have been another fine day for the Europeans to go racing.
Horse Racing Notes
Black Tie Affair, winner of the Classic, and Unbridled, who finished third, 2 3/4 lengths behind him, have been retired to stud. . . . The report on Housebuster is good. Injured while he ran ninth as the 2-5 favorite in the Sprint, Housebuster’s leg is in a cast and he will be moved to a Kentucky farm today. The cast will be removed in two or three weeks, and he is expected to begin his stud career early next year. . . . It was known before the Classic that Summer Squall would be retired. He finished ninth.
Arazi left for France Sunday. If he runs in the Kentucky Derby next year, as owner Allen Paulson plans, his prep races will be in Europe. . . . Paulson said that reports of Sheik Mohammed paying $5 million for 50% of Arazi are incorrect. “The price was substantially more than $5 million,” said Paulson, who is prohibited by the terms of the pre-Breeders’ Cup deal from divulging the exact figure. . . . Itsallgreektome, second to Miss Alleged in the Turf, is expected to run in the Hollywood Turf Cup, a stake he won last year. . . . Tom Meeker, president of Churchill Downs, said that total betting on the Breeders’ Cup would exceed $72 million, compared to $55 million a year ago. The Pick Seven, introduced this year, accounted for $8.5 million of the handle, less than Meeker’s projection of $10 million.
Foreign-based horses that have won Breeders’ Cup races:
$2 Win Year Horse Country Race Price 1984 Lashkari France Turf $108.80 1985 Pebbles England Turf 6.40 1986 Last Tycoon France Mile 73.80 1987 Miesque France Mile 9.20 1988 Miesque France Mile 6.00 1990 Royal Academy Ireland Mile 7.60 1990 In The Wings France Turf 5.80 1991 Sheikh Albadou England Sprint 54.60 1991 Dance Smartly Canada Distaff 3.00 1991 Arazi France Juvenile 6.20 1991 Miss Alleged France Turf 86.20