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  • Writer's picturePeter McNeile

Runners from five countries vie for St Moritz feature

Racecourses often judge success by attracting foreign runners and winners, especially if this has a positive effect on international betting pools. Races like the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe benefit directly from the international fields that encourage racing fans in other jurisdictions to show interest in their home-trained contenders.

Equally, international runners are equated with excellence. British entries for Group races in Germany or Italy, say, are generally regarded at home as searching for easier routes to win black type - sometimes an unfair assessment of the quality of foreign group races. Just as often, an owner's decision to run abroad is as much about the experience as improving the breeding value of his stock.

British racing is often hailed as the best in the world, although increasingly, this bold assertion is only from the mouths of British racing professionals. There are certainly better endowed racing jurisdictions, but like many other sports, the racing game was invented in Britain, and retains some element of faded grandeur as a result, even as others surpass British race values and leave them trailing in their wake.

The poor returns have created innovation among British trainers and owners however, as witnessed recently by British success in Bahrain and a lesser know racing jurisdiction - Switzerland.

The White Turf meeting at St Moritz has been in existence since 1907, and, global warming permitting, will be around for plenty longer given its widespread support from large crowds and premium brand sponsors. This year's Longines Grosser Preis von St Moritz, worth €100,000 and of Group II status, attracted an international field any racecourse would be proud of. Runners from home, Italy, Germany, France, Britain and Spain faced the starter for the 2000m dash to the line around this tight turning circuit.

British-trained Mordred, bought deliberately to target St Moritz, and the winner of a race on each of the previous two weekends' racing, joined issue early with Furioso, trained in Spain by Guillermo Arizkorreta, placed in a handicap and listed race in his home country last autumn. Four lengths separated the two at the line, as Switzerland's biggest prize headed westward to La Zarzuella Racecourse in Madrid.

Guillermo is a classic product of the European racing scene. He was a champion amateur rider in Spain, and one of these titles also coincided with winning the Jockeys' title outright - a remarkable achievement not repeated since.

He subsequently moved to France, then England to learn the art of training, first with Carlos Laffón Parias, then with Luca Cumani in Newmarket. That apprenticeship has served him well. Since starting training in 2006, he has trained over 750 winners, 100 of which have been outside Spain.

Spain may not be a leading European racing nation, but with courses like Pau within easy reach, matching his horses to a suitable track and finding opportunities to run is not difficult. It would come as no surprise to see the Spanish champion trainer exerting further international influence in the years to come.

Viva l'Espanã, or as they say in La Zarzuella, la recompensa paga.

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