Though two big European names, Powerscourt and Motivator, will not be running Oct. 29 on Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships day, the contingent of foreign-based horses is quite strong, Nick Clarke, retired head of the International Racing Bureau, said from Belmont Park Sunday morning.
"I think in terms of the number of horses and in terms of the quality, it is a good and competitive a group of horses as we've ever brought," Clarke said.
Though retired, Clarke is working as a consultant to the IRB and Breeders' Cup for the event, which he has never missed in 22 years.
Powerscourt was not pre-entered but Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Motivator was, but came up lame following some work and has been retired.
The 21 Europeans still scheduled to run is the highest number since 1994 and nearly double from the 11 starters last year when the event was at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.
"Belmont is an ideal location," Clarke said. "The quarantine barn (near the training track) is in a very quiet spot, the turf course is great with its wide sweeping turns, and the weather is quite suitable."
There has been considerable rain in New York this month but Clarke said "what you would call soft, we would call good going. The turf course is in very good shape."
Favourable Terms and Leo were the first two from Europe to arrive, landing Friday afternoon. Favourable Terms is set to run in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) and Leo will contest the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
It takes about 24 hours for horses to be cleared from quarantine, their blood drawn when they arrive and shipped to the USDA lab in Aimes, Iowa.
A plane from France is due to arrive at 2:30 a.m. Monday, followed three hours later by a flight carrying Azamour. A group from England will arrive Tuesday morning and Aidan O'Brien's horses will come in from Ireland Tuesday afternoon.
Ouija Board will be the favorite in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) as she tries to win the race for the second straight year. Azamour will be one of the choices in the John Deere Turf (gr. IT).
His biggest disappointment by a European runner, Clarke said, was Dancing Brave in the 1996 Turf (gr. IT). "He had a hell of a season and Khalid Abdullah (owner of Juddmonte Farm) was so supportive of the Breeders' Cup and wanted him to run," Clark said. "Dancing Brave never got to show what he was capable of."
Sent off 1-2, Dancing Brave finished fourth behind Manila, Theatrical, and Estrapade.
The biggest surprise, Clarke said, was trainer Michael Stoute running one-two with Pilsudski and Singspiel in the 1996 Turf at Woodbine. "That was just a remarkable accomplishment," he said.