As all the attention was being cast in the eastern direction of Kentucky, a tidbit of news filtered out of the west that a strategic alliance had been formed between Santa Anita Park in California and the Victoria Racing Club, operators of Flemington Racecourse, in Australia.

The far-reaching Aussies, in an attempt to lure USA- trained long distance runners to their countrys shores, announced that Santa Anita agreed that the winner of the San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap, a $250,000 Grade 2 stakes, would become automatically qualified to run in the Melbourne Cup, one of the worlds richest races.

What makes the announcement noteworthy is that it is one of a growing number of recent revelations that United States racing and breeding interests are beginning to recognize that the world is flat. Disregard the $4 million discrepancy in prize money between the Cap and the Cup, the difference between these races is more than a vowel. But, nevertheless, a bond was forged.

Each spring (or autumn, according to some calendars) the winner of the Melbourne Cup instantly becomes as famous as Crocodile Dundee. Nearly 120,000 fans, as well as a television audience that is bigger than the Super Bowls, go ga-ga over the goings-on. Befitting The Race that Stops a Nation, the continent proclaims the first Tuesday each November a national holiday and all human movement subsides as the equines are released from the barriers.

Meanwhile, the San Juan Capistrano is a yawner thats been won in recent years by Ringaskiddy, Single Empire and Raintrap ever hear of them? Granted, the likes of Seabiscuit, Noor, Cougar II, John Henry and Kotashaan shook the good earth in prior years, but that was when Nicole Kidman was a gleam in the eye of her parents. The comparison between these two events is as obvious as apples are to oranges, or, shall it be said, kangaroos to moo-cows.

Last year, the Japanese ran one-two in the Melbourne Cup. And before them, shippers from Ireland, England and the UAE have hit the board in the Melbourne Cup a race that traces back to 1861. But no American-trained horse has ever even competed in it. For well over a century, the race had been a Aussies-only affair out of sight from the world and devoid of international involvement. The situation now appears to be changing.

One reason is that the blood of American-raced horses is becoming significant Down Under. Elusive Quality, Henny Hughes and Bernardini are the latest sires that are scheduled to shuttle between our shores and the South Pacific continent. Undoubtedly, someone has put two and two together to calculate that a Melbourne Cup-winning, American-raced stallion would be worth beaucoup bucks. In at least one regard, it seems that green is the color of Bluegrass.

Australia, the Far East, Dubai and Western Europe are regions at their zenith in terms of the sports popularity, level of competition and enjoyment. One easily can make the argument that horse racing, like baseball and basketball and hockey, is a pastime that is played at a higher grade at racetracks that dont have an American zip code. Only 15 percent of all $1 million races are held in the United States, debunking the myth that our hemisphere features the worlds premier fixtures. Go to the races abroad once, and you find yourself bored with the American counterpart.

Supremacy in the sport has long seemed to be an American birthright. But times are different now. All the most significant developments are happening offshore. You can hold out for as long as you care in giving them your props. But the foreigners have come, they have prospered and theyve conquered.

Good fortune, San Juan Capistrano winner. Racing without your medications, on turf against the worlds most accomplished grass horses, halfway around the globe youre going to need luck, mate.