Goodbye, Breeders' Cup. Hello, World Thoroughbred Championships. America's biggest day of racing is now the world's biggest day of racing. For the first time since its inception, racing's Greatest Show on Earth will not be dominated by American-based horses.
The two largest international powerhouses--Godolphin and the Coolmore group--are not only heading to the World Thoroughbred Championships en masse, they are bringing all their heavy artillery. And this year, that means an array of European stars never before seen on one card, especially in the United States. The Europeans also appear to be on top of their game, while the Americans have been decimated by injuries, not to mention several heavy hitters suffering sound defeats in their last starts. In fact, the four Breeders' Cup winners from last year--Tiznow, Kona Gold, Macho Uno, and Spain--all were defeated in their previous starts.
At a time when the U.S. and all of Europe have united like never before, it is only fitting that their equine worlds also have come together to provide an unprecedented day of international racing. With ground zero still smoldering in the minds of New Yorkers, and all Americans, what better respite from the horror than having Americans, Arabs, and Europeans joining hands for one afternoon to help create something beautiful.
The emphasis on this year's World Thoroughbred Championships is quality over quantity, as only 117 pre-entries were taken, compared to 142 in 2000. The total number of horses pre-entered dropped to 104 from last year's 135. Supplementary fees also dropped significantly, from $3,060,000 in 2000 to $1,140,000. Two supplementaries from last year--Tiznow and Gander--get free rides this year.
The $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) will provide the stage for the rubber match between European titans Galileo and Fantastic Light. With 2001 Triple Crown heroes Point Given and Monarchos out of the picture, America's hopes lie with last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont (gr. I) runner-up Aptitude, who crushed his field by 10 lengths in the Oct. 6 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), and defending Classic winner and Horse of the Year Tiznow, who is a major question mark following an uninspired third in the Goodwood Handicap (gr. II). Behind them are a solid group of stakes horses who still must prove themselves against the best of the best.
Perhaps the key word in this year's World Thoroughbred Championships is "future," and to most Americans, the future is a glistening bay running machine named Officer. The son of Bertrando not only has dominated his opponents in every one of his five starts, he has done it with so little effort, it's almost embarrassing to witness such disdain for one's opponents. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), it will be interesting to see how Officer treats three new undefeated shooters--the exciting Siphonic, Came Home, and Europe's leading juvenile Johannesburg, who has dominated his foes in all six of his starts. Another awesome display by Officer and there will be a new key word bouncing around the country: freak.
Another major point of interest in this year's World Thoroughbred Championships is the powerful contingent of the white-hot Bobby Frankel, who is hoping at least one of his troops can put an end to his ignominious 0-for-36 record in the Breeders' Cup. With Aptitude in the Classic, Timboroa in the Turf, Flute in the Distaff, You in the Juvenile Fillies, and Squirtle Squirt in the Sprint, Frankel will be as well-armed in talent as any trainer in Breeders' Cup history.
To show how widespread the foreign-owned invasion is this year, Godolphin has horses trained by Saeed bin Suroor and Eoin Harty; Sheikh Maktoum has horses with Neil Drysdale and Michael Stoute; Sheikh Mohammed has a horse with Andre Fabre; Michael Tabor has horses with Drysdale, Todd Pletcher, D. Wayne Lukas, and Aidan O'Brien, while his Coolmore partners John and Susan Magnier have horses with O'Brien; Juddmonte Farms has horses with Frankel and Fabre; and Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp. has horses with Lukas and Bob Baffert.
So, can the Americans hold off Galileo, Fantastic Light, Sakhee, Johannesburg, Mutamam, Noverre, Mozart, and a slew of other brilliant European stars? That question alone should provide enough interest to make the 2001 World Thoroughbred Championships one of the most exciting sporting events of the year.
Here's how the races shape up: Distaff
: This year's race, with 13 pre-entries, is dominated by the 3-year-olds, as Flute, Exogenous, Fleet Renee, and Unbridled Elaine square off to decide the championship. Last year's winner, Spain, is back to defend her crown. The owners of Spinster (gr. I) winner Miss Linda will have to cough up $400,000. Juvenile Fillies
: The smallest field, with only nine pre-entries, looks like a battle between You, Habibti, and Bella Bellucci, trained by Frankel, Baffert, and Drysdale, respectively, with the Godolphin pair of Tempera and Imperial Gesture providing further competition. Mile
: As usual, this always-competitive race has the largest number of pre-entries, with 19, including nine horses cross-entered in other races. Balto Star, Brahms, City Zip, and Numerous Times likely will run here; Hap and Slew Valley probably are headed for the Turf (gr. IT); Crystal Music and Banks Hill are pointing for the Filly & Mare Turf; and I Love Silver has first preference in the Sprint (gr. I).Sprint
: With 18 pre-entries, most of them brilliant, top-class sprinters, this looks to be the most competitive race on the card by far. Last year's winner Kona Gold will have his hands full with major stakes winners Caller One, Delaware Township, Bet On Sunshine, El Corredor, Left Bank, Swept Overboard, Squirtle Squirt, and the remarkable 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat. And then there is the Aidan O'Brien-trained speedball Mozart. Hold on to your hats in this one.Filly & Mare Turf
: The only one of the 13 pre-entries not expected to run is the aforementioned Tranquility Lake. Three supplementaries who pre-entered are Spook Express, Kalypso Katie, and the Bobby Frankel-trained Starine. But the race could come down to a rematch between Lailani and England's Legend, who finished one-two in the Flower Bowl Handicap (gr. IT).Juvenile
: As we said, the anticipation of seeing what Officer can do against a tough, competitive field may well be the highlight of the afternoon. At stake is favoritism for next year's Kentucky Derby, and a host of superlatives that are just waiting to spill out onto the pages of newspapers and magazines across the country. Siphonic and Came Home look to be extraordinary colts in their own right, and who knows how good European sensation Johannesburg is?Turf
: Of the 16 horses pre-entered, Balto Star, Fantastic Light, and Kalypso Katie are expected to go elsewhere. What was interesting, however, was the fact that Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Sakhee, a stablemate of Fantastic Light, also was pre-entered in the Classic as first preference. Frankel holds a strong hand in here with Turf Classic (gr. IT) winner Timboroa, but America's main hope looks to be the vastly improved With Anticipation. Classic
: With Brahms and Numerous Times cross-entered in the Mile, and Sakhee still a distinct possibility for the Turf, it looks as if a solid field of 13 or 14 will go to the post. Top European miler Black Minnaloushe was only pre-entered here, giving Aidan O'Brien a strong one-two punch if both he and Galileo can handle the dirt.