ELMONT, N.Y., Oct. 25 (UPI) -- The Breeders' Cup Championship races this year were rechristened the "World Thoroughbred Championships" and events Saturday at Belmont Park may prove that change prophetic.
The eight championship races feature horses that have raced at sites around the globe -- from Hong Kong and Japan to Dubai, from South America to Canada and in many of Europe's top racing venues. In the cool, fall climate of Long Island, an especially strong European contingent is expected to have a major impact on the results.
Godolphin Racing, based in Dubai, is a major player, with favorites in the $1 million Mile (Noverre) and the $2 million Turf (Fantastic Light). The worldwide operation, run by Dubai's ruling Maktoum family, also has strong contenders in several other races, including Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee in the $4 million Classic.
Galileo, a superstar Irish-bred 3-year-old trained by Aiden O'Brien, also is a threat in the Classic. O'Brien also expects Mozart to run well in the Sprint and Milan in the Turf.
Asked to pick his most likely winner, the Irish trainer demurred.
"There are a lot of them with chances," he said. "To pick any one would be wrong. We'd be over the moon if any of them won."
O'Brien said Galileo, "has been working well. He's only a 3-year-old and he's danced every dance this year. If you didn't know the campaign he's had, you'd say we were happy with him."
Other interesting foreign-based entrants:
-- Sophisticat in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies. She is by Storm Cat out of the phenomenal racemare Serena's Song. She has raced only in Britain and won only once in seven starts but O'Brien feels she has great potential in her first start at a distance of ground.
-- The $1 million Mile on the turf is a natural home for Europeans. This year's contingent includes the musical hunch exacta of Bach and Brahms, although Brahms has raced in the United States this year. Express Tour won the UAE Derby in Dubai before flopping in the Kentucky Derby and is trying the grass for the first time. Noverre will be tough to beat off a successful European summer campaign.
-- Banks Hill has been racing successfully in France against top male competition and stretches out an extra quarter mile beyond her previous 1-mile limit in the $1 million Filly & Mare Turf. The 3-year-old daugher of Danehill has plenty of pedigree to handle the added distance but faces a lot of competition. The favorite for the race, Lailani, won six straight in Europe, then won her first United States start in the Flower Bowl at Belmont. Nine of
the 12 entrants are foreign-bred, including South African-bred Spook Express.
-- The $1 million Juvenile features another O'Brien charge -- Johannesburg. The Kentucky-bred son of Hennessy has won six straight in Ireland, England and France but, like Sophisticat, runs for the first time on the main track and the first time beyond 6 furlongs.
Circumstances could help the imports.
The Breeders' Cup Championships move from track to track in North America. When they are in locations such as Southern California or South Florida, Europeans are at a disadvantage because of distance or climate. The ship to New York is relatively easy and the climate conducive to an extended campaign.