The European contingent for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships arrived in good order this year despite some concerns over international travel in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. In fact, this year's shippers are said to make up one of the strongest groups ever.
"(The situation) did not affect people's decisions to come to the Breeders' Cup," said Alistair Donald, press liaison for the International Racing Bureau. "We didn't hear of anyone who said that because of the situation, they were not going to New York. I don't think we've left anyone behind. It's a strong group of horses."
Among this year's group is Galileo, winner of the Epsom and Irish Derbies; Sahkee, winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe; and Fantastic Light, winner of the Irish Champion Stakes.
"Perhaps it's an illustration of the impact or lure of the Classic," Donald said. "If you are a mile-and-half-on-turf champion, it doesn't add much luster to your reputation winning another mile-and-a-half turf race."
Many of the Europeans shipped in the week of Oct. 21 and remained headquartered in the quarantine barn on the Belmont Park backstretch. The Goldolphin contingent shipped in earlier and has been based in Barn 6. Donald said the only problem involved Crystal Music, the John Gosden-trained Filly & Mare Turf hopeful whose flight from England was delayed for 24 hours.
"From the (travel) perspective, it went well," Donald said. "I'm also happy to say there were no reported incidents of travel sickness. We have 17 or 18 horses here, and usually one in 20 would have a bad trip or spike a travel temperature."
The weather is expected to be cool and dry for the World Thoroughbred Championships. Donald said the climate and the large main track and turf course at Belmont should assist the Europeans.
"If we get our horses kicked, we'll have to think up some excuses," he said with a laugh.
Thoroughbreds can train on Salix (formerly known as Lasix, a diuretic) and other medications in Europe, but can't use them on race day. In the U.S., Salix is administered on race day. More than half of the European contingent will race on Salix for the first time Saturday.
In total, only five horses among the 108 scheduled to race on the 10-race card -- Open Sesame (Stuyvesant Handicap), Bella Bellucci (Juvenile Fillies), Banks Hill (Filly & Mare Turf), Spring Oak (Filly & Mare Turf), and Slew the Rod (Turf) -- will not race on Salix.