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Cup now has a different flavour but is no less intoxicating.

Byline: James Willoughby

ONE of the tragedies of Jean-Paul Sartre's death in 1980 was not that it predated the first Breeders' Cup. However, the wistful Frenchman did leave us with a rallying cry for the mission of European-trained horses.

"People are never more insecure than when they become obsessed with their fears at the expense of their dreams," he wrote, long before Miesque and Goldikova would do his country proud on foreign soil.

A buccaneering spirit has empowered the connections of European horses on many a daring Breeders' Cup raid. And, in so doing, provided some of the greatest moments in racing history.

Perhaps a sense of derring-do will also encourage Sir Michael Stoute to allow Workforce to take part in the Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday. Firm going at Churchill Downs has put the big horse's bid in doubt for reasons that even the media can understand.

But this is the horse who clocked the best time in the history of the Derby. While it wasn't firm at Epsom, we know for a fact that it was fast. Let us hope the condition of the turf course in Kentucky improves.

In general, the European challengers for the seventh Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs may be categorised as few but good. Apart from Workforce, defending champions Goldikova and Midday may be described as leading hopes in their events, and Paco Boy is never to be discounted, but any further wins will have to come about by the accumulation of half-chances.

Interest in the Breeders' Cup among British and Irish punters is gradually increasing. And this also applies to knowledge, resulting in a diminution of the usual parochial and ignorant comments precipitated by the event.

At the same time, the naive excitement generated by the Breeders' Cup may be levelling off. Perhaps we have been spoilt by success, a bit like in the Ryder Cup where the unbridled joy first kindled by vain hope has now given way to tense expectation.

This is no less an experience, just a different flavour. And it says much for European golfers and racehorse trainers alike.

The Ballydoyle presence at the Breeders' Cup is certainly a lot less than in recent years. This is probably just variance caused by a relatively quiet year for Aidan O'Brien's horses, but the great Irish trainer may now operate more selectively in any case.

It is not that O'Brien's modest record at recent cups is a deterrent for him. It is more the increasingly dubious concept that a Breeders' Cup victory represents the Holy Grail for the potential stallions now in his care.

It was at Churchill Downs where the O'Brien-trained Giant's Causeway went agonisingly close to Classic success in 2000. But he was one of many Ballydoyle horses by Storm Cat back then; now it is turf-only sires like Montjeu, Galileo and the Danehills Dylan Thomas and Duke Of Marmalade who will likely be the source of his future champions.

O'Brien's Johannesburg did gild his stellar European record with victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont in 2001, and he has gone on to prove a highly successful and commercial stallion in the US. But he was by Hennessy, a son of Storm Cat who was already a popular stallion himself.

INSTEAD, it is interesting to ponder the case of the Kingmambo horse Henrythenavigator, second to Raven's Pass in the 2008 Classic. Does such a tremendous run on synthetics really broaden his appeal beyond that of the turf stallion described by his European form? Henrythenavigator now stands at Coolmore America and was advertised at $40,000 for the 2010 covering season. That is about EUR28,000, or EUR2,000 less than Duke Of Marmalade's fee in Tipperary. In case you have forgotten, the Duke finished only ninth in the same race as his stablemate at Santa Anita.

Naturally, the prize-money alone makes the Breeders' Cup worth a shot to nothing at the end of a great European horse's career. And the risk-reward ratio is even more appealing for a horse lower down the pecking order who might make a name for himself. Wilko, the 2004 Juvenile winner, greatly outstripped his British turf form at Lone Star Park and found himself a place on the illustrious Adena Springs roster in North America as a result.

While there are doubtless rewards for the great efforts required to flatter a horse entering stud, something a lot more important is required to strike gold when he gets there: it is called potency and isn't up for grabs at Churchill Downs.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:Nov 3, 2010
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