International: race of kings Laurel event draws horses with royal connections

October 16, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

LAUREL -- The race is called the Budweiser International. But the principals in this year's running definitely get their kick from champagne.

Five of the eight horses that were entered yesterday for the 41st renewal of Laurel's premier race are owned by a prince, sheik or baron.

It is no secret that Middle East potentates own the bulk of the world's quality racehorses, but this is the biggest collection of their equine stock ever displayed in the International.

Sillery, who has three wins and two seconds in five starts this year, mostly in graded stakes competition, is the favorite. He is owned by the Head family of French horsemen and horsewomen. Alec Head not only bred the horse, he said yesterday, "but everybody connected with it." His wife, Ghislaine, owns Sillery. His daughter, Criquette, is the trainer. His son, Freddie, is the jockey.

But, after the Heads, the bulk of the field has imperial connections.

Prince Khalid Abdullah, who races in America as Juddmonte Farms, owns Contested Bid, the Maurice Zilber-trained 3-year-old who could be second choice in the International. The prince is a member of Saudi Arabia's ruling family. His nephew, Prince Fahd Salman, owns Zoman, third choice in Laurel's morning line.

Two of the "Dubai brothers," Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum and his younger brother, Sheik Mohammed, each have a horse in the race.

Long shot Thakib, back for a return try after finishing eighth in last year's International, is owned by Sheik Hamdan's Shadwell Stable.

Sheik Mohammed actually owns Young Buster, one of the two English representatives, but the horse is leased to the heirs of the Hong Kong shipping magnate Eric Moller.

After Moller and his older brother, Budgie, died, Sheik Mohammed purchased their racing and breeding operation, according to English racing journalists attending the International. But Eric Moller had established a trust in his will that funds a racing stable for his heirs as long as his trainer, Geoffrey Wragg, 62, is alive. Wragg leased a group of Moller's horses, including Young Buster, from Sheik Mohammed.

There is one stipulation: If Young Buster wins a Group or Grade I race, such as the International, his ownership reverts to the sheik.

Leariva, last year's International victor, who hasn't visited the winner's circle since that upset at 44-1 odds, has far simpler ownership arrangements.

She is owned by Belgian-born Baron Thierry van Zuylen de Nyevelt, who lives in London.

Leariva, who beat Sillery by 1 3/4 lengths last year, is based in France along with the Head family runner. But the horses have waged separate 1992 campaigns and had to cross the Atlantic Ocean for a rematch. Only one horse, Bald Eagle in 1959 and 1960, has won back-to-back Internationals.

The rest of this year's International field is comprised of American runners Stark South and Senor Tomas.

Solar Splendor, considered the best hope for a U.S. victory, was not entered. His trainer, Pat Kelly, does not want to run the horse on Laurel's traditionally soft turf course. Solar Splendor finished 10th last year.

After entries for the five International Turf Festival races were drawn yesterday, these facts emerged:

* The French, who won three of the five races last year, have come back in force. Twelve of the 48 horses entered in the five races, 25 percent, are trained in France.

* The International drew the smallest field since 1983, down five from a year ago. But other races, such as the Dash and Futurity, showed big increases. Overall, the Festival drew one more horse than in 1991.

* Freddie Head, who rides the favorite, is 0-4 in four previous Internationals. He has finished last three times. His best performance was aboard third-place Ivanjica in 1976. His sister, Criquette, the trainer, finished third with Squill in 1990 and second with Sillery last year. Corey Black rode Sillery in the 1991 race.

* Local jockey Edgar Prado has a mount in every Turf Festival race, except the International. Even though Prado won the race last year with Leariva, the horse's trainer, David Smaga, wants his stable jockey, Cash Asmussen, to ride Leariva. If Asmussen can't ride, then Prado gets the mount.

NOTES: The 15-person board of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association meets with track operator Joe De Francis today to try to solve the Pimlico stable closing issue. The group also will discuss Rosecroft intertrack and OTB deals. DeFrancis said owner Arnold Heft is responsible for getting the two sides together. . . . Charlie Fenwick III, who is among the top five riders at the Laurel meet, gets his first International Turf Festival mount tomorrow. He rides Wrap Around for trainer Barclay Tagg in the Dash.

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