Turf Preview: Battle for Turf

With victory in the last three runnings of the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), sponsored this year by John Deere, Europe will field another strong team for the 12-furlong, $2-million affair at Arlington Park.

Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor's 3-year-old High Chaparral is expected to be the invaders' big gun, coming off a third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) after six consecutive victories, including the Epsom and Irish Derbys (both group I).

Manning the battlements for the U.S., and hoping to break the tie that has seen Europe and America win nine Turfs each, will be George Strawbridge Jr.'s With Anticipation and the Niarchos family's Denon.

Arc winner Marienbard, who scored a 15-1 upset for Godolphin Racing, will not cross the Atlantic to represent Europe. No Arc winner has ever taken the Turf. The executors of Lord Weinstock's Golan will make the journey. Golan campaigns for trainer Michael Stoute, victorious with Weinstock's Pilsudski in 1996.

High Chaparral, a son of the redoubtable Sadler's Wells bred by Sean Coughlan, whose Ridgewood Pearl won the 1995 Mile (gr. IT), will require supplementing into the Turf at a cost of $180,000, as will Golan. High Chaparral is trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, who lost a Turf runner when Ballingarry won the Canadian International (Can-I, Sept. 29) and was purchased by Narvick International, then turned over to Laura de Seroux.

Ballingarry races for a partnership that includes de Seroux, Marsha Naify, and 91-year-old Chicago resident Sidney L. Port.

Strawbridge won the 1994 Turf with French-trained Tikkanen and 7-year-old With Anticipation will carry the green and white colors this time. The Pennsylvania homebred ran a stinker for trainer Jonathan Sheppard in the Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Sept. 29 but had won three consecutive grade I races before it.

Turf Classic winner Denon, bred by Flaxman Holdings and co-owned by Flaxman and Edmund Gann, is trained by Bobby Frankel. The 4-year-old by Pleasant Colony had suffered defeats by a neck and a head to With Anticipation in his previous two starts and the former European runner could well prove America's best chance of victory.

Blazing Fury, trained by Jimmy Toner for Ron Nicholson and Caesar P. Kimmel, comes in to the Turf off his fast-finishing second in the Turf Classic while The Tin Man, off his first grade I win in the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial on grass, will start for Dick Mandella, who trains the 4-year-old son of Affirmed for Ralph and Aury Todd.

Mandella has won two Breeders' Cup races, including the 1993 Turf with La Presle Farm's Kotashaan.

The 2002 Turf will be a three-turn race, which could favor American horses, more used to the narrow confines of an oval track than their European brethren. However, European trainers such as Stoute and O'Brien, have proven repeatedly they can ship horses and win against top competition around the world.

Off With Anticipation's solid early fractions, Fantastic Light set a new course record of 2:24.36 in the Turf last year at Belmont Park as the 7-5 favorite. With Anticipation tired to seventh as the second-choice while 51-1 Blazing Fury rallied from far back to claim fourth. The Turf record is 2:23.92, set in 1997 at Hollywood Park by Chief Bearhart.

High Chaparral should start as favorite for the Turf with Denon not far behind him in the betting, but O'Brien may look on Ballingarry as the one that got away when the race is run.