Europeans cast aside history

Ignoring record, climate, stables take their chances with more than 20 entries

Breeders' Cup notebook

November 03, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- After the Europeans failed to win a single race last year in the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, no one expected many to make the return trip this year to Gulfstream Park.

After all, Churchill Downs was where the Europeans were supposed to thrive -- cool weather and a turf course to their liking. Conversely, the normally firm turf course at hot and humid Gulfstream Park had put off the Europeans twice before. In the two previous Breeders' Cups here, 1989 and 1992, European-based horses were 0-for-28.

To everyone's surprise, however, more than 20 horses from Europe have arrived for Saturday's $13 million payday. Alastair Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau, was asked yesterday why he thought so many had come.

"Fourteen million dollars," he said.

When someone corrected his math (purses for the eight races total $13 million), he said, smiling: "What's a million when you get to that level?"

Also, he said, the European horsemen reacted favorably to changes made with them in mind: Four barns instead of two, with horses spaced out and stabled only on the shady sides, awnings for additional shade and portable air-conditioning units in the barns.

Still, when outside their stalls, the horses must contend with heat and humidity, which this week have been stifling.

"The biggest problem is the change in climate," said Luca Cumani, the Italian trainer of Zomaradah in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, one of three Cup races on grass. The Mile and the Turf are the others.

"This a big change for these European horses," Cumani said.

The weather in Europe is cool, windy and wet, he said. He said that horses prepare for that just as humans do, physically and mentally.

Although the turf course here was expected to be firm, unlike most European turf courses, it is now expected to be soft and wet. Clay-based, it is still soaked from Hurricane Irene, and rains this week haven't helped. Even with dry weather the rest of the week -- the forecast -- it will probably be squishy through the weekend.

According to the Europeans, Daylami, their best hope in the Turf, doesn't like soggy turf, even though his record shows wins on turf rated soft, good and yielding. Conversely, Turf entrants Dream Well and Courteous should relish the wet grass.

Lend A Hand, the Dubai-based Godolphin entrant in the Mile on turf, prefers firm footing, the Europeans say.

Not Drysdale's week

California-based trainer Neil Drysdale lost his second Breeders' Cup horse in less than a week. Single Empire was withdrawn from the Turf because of an abscess in his right front foot.

Earlier, Drysdale announced the retirement of Fiji, last year's Eclipse Award-winning turf mare, because of a recurring respiratory problem.

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