The $750,000 Budweiser International has been weakened by injuries and defections, but it retains a sheik quality. Creator, from France, and Batshoof, from England, will try to end two straight years of American rule and give cause to boast in the royal palace of Dubai.
The International heads the final day of the Turf Festival at Laurel, with the $250,000 Laurel Dash and $300,000 All Along scheduled later on the 12-race program. Post time for the International will be earlier than usual, 2:40 p.m., in conjunction with ESPN's 90-minute television coverage that will begin at 1:30.
Creator, a Group I winner in France, is owned by Sheik Mohammed al Maktoum, defense minister of the tiny Middle East emirate of Dubai. Batshoof belongs to his brother, Sheik Maktoum al Maktoum, the newly crowned ruler. Although neither is expected at Laurel today, their color bearers will have plenty of support; Creator is the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Batshoof 3 to 1.
Creator's five-race winning streak ended with a sound defeat in England three months ago, and the 4-year-old has not regained the touch in two subsequent races. However, his recent two-length defeat at Longchamp gained importance after the winner, Saumarez, took the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe three weeks later. Still, Creator has been a beaten favorite in three straight starts.
Batshoof has not raced since Sept. 2, primarily because he's been training at Laurel for about a month. Whereas other trainers sent their European horses here last week, Neil Drysdale sought to have Batshoof better acclimated. To further help his cause, Batshoof will run with Lasix for the first time today. Ode, a French filly, is the other European in a field of nine.
Maktoum and Mohammed are renowned for buying high-priced yearlings, the kind of young horse Ten Keys was not. He was drifting about middle-level claiming races in January 1987 when Mike Pino took him for $14,500; now, $1.2 million later, he has become Maryland's dominant turf horse and today can become the first home-standing horse to win an International.
Completing the field are Phantom Breeze, Fly Till Dawn, My Big Boy, Double Booked and Aksar.
The Laurel Dash, ninth on the card today, featured a congested stretch run last year with the first nine finishing in a five-length span. Many who have seen the French colt, Ron's Victory, contend this race won't be as close; he won his last race by 10 lengths. America's best chance might be Fourstardave, who set the pace in Expensive Decision's track-record win at Belmont Park. Fourstardave is accustomed to races longer than the six-furlong Dash, however.
Trainer Andre Fabre's afternoon doesn't hinge solely on Creator. He'll also have a force in the All Along with Houseproud, a Group I winner in France this year. Fieldy, a New York-based winner of $1.2 million, is the program favorite.