Staying in N.Y., race backs recovery effort

`Proud to play small role' by donating to victims fund

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 23, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ELMONT, N.Y. - This is the fourth time the Breeders' Cup - recently renamed the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships - has been held in New York, and the third time at Belmont Park. The fourth was 1985 at Aqueduct.

The running Saturday of eight stakes worth $13 million will be the 18th renewal of the series. But this one will be like no other.

Belmont, a sprawling track on Long Island, sits about 20 miles from downtown New York. On a clear day, the city's skyline is clearly visible.

Despite the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Breeders' Cup officials decided to keep the races at Belmont. Security will be heightened. Proceeds from Breeders' Cup events as well as a percentage of earnings from certain jockeys and horse owners will be donated to a fund for victims of the attack.

But the show will go on.

"This event has taken on a different meaning than the norm," said D.G. Van Clief, Breeders' Cup president. "We hope the event will prove to be a building block in the rehabilitation process. We're very proud to play a role, even if it's a small role, in that process."

When pre-entries were taken last week for the eight races, 104 horses were pre-entered. Tomorrow, final entries will be taken, and post positions will be drawn.

Pre-entries were down significantly from last year, when the Breeders' Cup was held at Churc- hill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Last year 135 horses were pre-entered.

Van Clief says that he believes the number is down because standout horses in the Juvenile (Officer) and Juvenile Fillies (You) as well as a strong European contingent might have dissuaded some owners from paying the hefty entrance fee for their horses.

If anything, Van Clief says, horsemen have been unwavering in their support of the Breeders' Cup.

"We're extremely grateful for the stick-to-itiveness and determination of these owners and trainers traveling long distances and coming from other countries in the face of what has been going on here," he said. "No one has faltered."

Nineteen horses from Europe were pre-entered, including ones owned by princes in Saudi Arabia and sheiks in Dubai. The three best horses in Europe, and possibly the world - Fantastic Light, Galileo and Sakhee - are slated to run in either the $2 million Turf or the $4 million Classic.

Tom Albertrani is a New Yorker who has worked six years as assistant trainer for Godolphin Racing, the world-renowned stable based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, were the only countries that recognized the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan.

"I think everybody's trying to keep a low profile and stay alert," Albertrani said.

Miscellaneous

Four winners of Breeders' Cup races last year were pre-entered: reigning Horse of the Year Tiznow in the Classic, Spain in the Distaff, Kona Gold in the Sprint and Macho Uno, who won last year's Juvenile, in the Classic. ... Albertrani said that a decision on whether Fantastic Light, multiple Group I winner, or Sakhee, dominant winner of the Arc de Triomphe, will run in the Turf or Classic hasn't been made. Neither has raced on dirt. ... Galileo and his Irish cohorts are due today at Belmont. A 3-year-old son of Sadler's Wells, Galileo has won six of seven races. Even though he has raced only on turf, he will compete in the Classic.

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