If a British thoroughbred, Inchinor, wins the Washington D.C. International at Laurel Race Course today, his next stop is Hong Kong.
For a horse that had never left his native land until three days ago, the small colt is rapidly developing into an international traveler.
His trainer, Roger Charlton, describes him as "as a fighter, not more than 15.1 hands. He doesn't do anything that's particularly impressive. When he wins, he just gets up in time."
In England, Charlton lives 45 minutes from Paul Cole, the British trainer who pulled off a mild upset last year with Zoman in the Washington D.C. International.
He is using Cole's stable jockey, T. Richard Quinn, in the attempt to post back-to-back victories for the British in the $600,000 turf stakes.
The race has a distinctly American flavor. Because of an air cargo strike in Paris, there is, for the first time in five years, no French representative in the field.
Seven of the eight horses, including two Maryland-based runners, are domestic products, and all of them, except Finder's Choice, trace their lineage to Northern Dancer, the great sire who stood for more than a decade in the state and died here in 1989.
But thanks to Herculean determination by Charlton and deep pockets by the horse's owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer, there is a European presence.
There was such chaos at Stanstead, the central English airport and point of origin for Inchinor's American journey -- due to the Paris strike, Charlton said -- that his crew waited with the horse in a truck on the tarmac for four hours "hoping to get on a flight. There wasn't any certainty he'd make that, but when he did, the plane was diverted to Brussels [Belgium]."
Inchinor waited again on the tarmac before being flown to Newark, N.J., and then vanned to Laurel.
"The trip took exactly 24 hours, when it should have been done in 12," Charlton said. But, he added, despite Inchinor's first experience on an airplane, he arrived in fine shape.
Charlton picked out the International as the horse's next start two months ago, attracted to the stakes' new mile distance.
"I figured we'd be the fifth, sixth or seventh choice in the Breeders' Cup Mile [at Santa Anita Nov. 6], and frankly, we came here to duck the big bullets," Charlton said. "There is a big shortage in Europe of good milers and the handful of best ones -- Bigstone, Hernando, Barathea and Sayyedati -- are going directly to California.
"Inchinor will have to win impressively [today], and have an easy race, which I don't think will happen, for us to go to the Breeders' Cup."
Charlton added: "It will cost us in the range of $30,000 for me, the jockey and the horse to get to Laurel and back home. Unlike Laurel [management], which doesn't pay expenses, our next race will be in Hong Kong, with the same kind of purse, and they [the Hong Kong Jockey Club] pay all the costs for the horse, the rider, the owner and five days in the city for my wife and I."
It is Charlton's first trip to Laurel and also the first for Quinn.
"He didn't ride Cole's horse [Zoman] last year, because Alan Munro is the contract rider for the owner [Prince Fahd]," Charlton said. "After today's race, Quinn leaves immediately and rides in Italy tomorrow."
Charlton saddled the winners of the English and French derbies in 1990 and has saddled winners at a 26 percent rate in Great Britain this year.
Today's race accentuates speed. The Wicked North, a California invader, was good enough to beat Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Thirty Slews on the main track and has held his own running against Bertrando, a candidate for Horse of the Year. He won his lone grass start on firm going, but it's questionable how he will handle the soft turf at Laurel.
He figures to be pressed by Cleone, Furiously and Finder's Choice.
New York invader Buckhar, who has been pointed expressly for this race by trainer Mike Freeman, has tactical speed and is a proven winner on deep footing.
Charlton said the ground at Laurel is similar to the footing in England. "It's hard to tell about the race," he said. "The only horse I know is Shug's [Furiously, trained by Shug McGaughey], and his form in his last two races isn't as good as it should be."
Charlton rates Inchinor as "a genuine Group III horse and maybe a Group II. He fits well in this race. He is listed at 15-1 [track odds], but I think he will be made a shorter price by the public."
Two of today's International jockeys -- Jean Cruguet (Buckhar) and Edgar Prado (Finder's Choice) -- have won the International, Cruguet in 1978 and Prado in 1991.
McGaughey, who scored in 1986 with Vanlandingham, is the only trainer trying for an International repeat.
FACTS AND FIGURES
What: 7th International Turf Festival, four races with purses totaling $1,250,000, including the 42nd running of the Washington D.C. International
When: Today: International Mile, 4:42 p.m.; All Along Stakes, 5:52 p.m. Tomorrow: Laurel Dash, 4:15 p.m.; Laurel Turf Cup, 4:43 p.m.
Where: Laurel Race Course
Features: 26 horses -- 23 from the United States and one each from France, Ireland and Great Britain
Post times: Today: 12:15 p.m., 11 live races plus simulcasts. Tomorrow: 12:30 p.m., 12 live races plus simulcasts
TV: Today: live coverage, 4-5 p.m. on ESPN "Racing Across America." Tomorrow: Laurel Dash, 4-5 p.m., as part of ESPN coverage of Remington Park Futurity in Oklahoma City, Okla.