Europeans look primed for big day

They've learned ropes, oddsmaker Clare says

Horse Racing

October 24, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARCADIA, Calif. - Five of the 19 Breeders' Cups have taken place in California, where the air is hot and the ground is hard.

Still, European horses have won five races, including four of the 10 turf events. They're poised for their best performance yet, said Simon Clare, oddsmaker for Coral, one of the leading bookmakers in England.

"Europeans have learned what to expect when they come to the Breeders' Cup," Clare said. "They're bringing the right horses and preparing them better. As far as the right horses that fit the track, I think this is the best European team ever in the Breeders' Cup."

This is the fourth year Clare has handicapped the Europeans for Sun readers. Despite the record heat in Southern California - temperatures in the 90s - Clare said the Europeans shouldn't be adversely affected. The summer and early fall were unusually hot and dry in Europe. Horses raced in 90-degree heat and didn't begin growing their winter coats before flying to the United States.

As for the Santa Anita turf course, European jockeys and trainers say it's firm but spongy. The European horses should handle it. If they have trouble, then it will more likely come from the sharp turns and short stretch.

Clare's best bet of the day is Six Perfections in the Mile. At 6-1 in the morning line, the 3-year-old French filly comes from the same camp as Domedriver, who won the Mile last year and paid $54. Clare had tipped Sun readers to the possibility of Domedriver's victory.

Six Perfections is perhaps better than Domedriver, Clare said. She beat him by a neck in her last race, a Group I stakes in France. Jerry Bailey replaces her regular rider after what Clare said were questionable rides that might have cost her two victories. He said Bailey provides a huge edge, especially trying to navigate position from post 13.

Clare also likes Refuse To Bend (15-1), a 3-year-old colt trained by the Irishman Dermot Weld. Clare describes Weld as "the god of traveling horses" for his prowess at winning races around the world. The drawback with Refuse To Bend, Clare said, is he's a big, strapping horse who lacks the speed of Six Perfections and could encounter trouble from which he's unable to escape.

In the Filly and Mare Turf, Clare likes Islington (3-1), who finished third in the race last year and enters this one better prepared. She's run against the best colts in Europe, as her third-place finish behind High Chaparral and Falbrav in the Irish Champion Stakes attests.

"Can she adapt to the Santa Anita track?" Clare said. "If she can, then she'll win."

In the Juvenile, Relaxed Gesture (20-1) could hit the board mainly because he's trained by Weld. Said Clare: "If he was in anybody else's hands, you'd say, `What a waste of an airfare.' "

The Turf is the best and deepest race of the day, Clare said, but his selections are clear: Falbrav (3-1) and Sulamani (7-2) to finish one-two, in that order.

Of Falbrav, Clare said: "He's been tagged the best turf horse in the world, and I'd go along with that."

Here are other horses Clare likes: Sightseek and Got Koko (Distaff); Halfbridled and Zosima (Juvenile Fillies); Peace Rules and Special Ring (Mile); Shake You Down, Valid Video and Yankee Gentleman (Sprint); Tates Creek (Filly and Mare Turf); Race for Glory (Juvenile), and Ten Most Wanted (Classic).

Horse to bet against, Clare said, are Aldebaran (Sprint), Cuvee (Juvenile), High Chaparral (Turf) and Hold That Tiger (Classic).

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