The Europeans staged a surprise invasion in the 2008 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.
They won't be blindsiding anyone this year.
Led by 13-1 Raven's Pass, who beat favorite and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, Europeans won five races on Breeders' Cup Saturday last year, and have a heavy _ and heavily watched _ presence in 2009.
Thirty of the 149 horses entered in this year's Breeders' Cup have been shipped in from Europe, looking to match last year's stunning success. They will brave jet lag, quarantines and strange synthetic surfaces to vie for their part in $25.5 million in purses.
Most of the European horses finished their required quarantine period and were out getting a feel for the synthetic soil Pro-Ride track at Santa Anita on Wednesday, some for the first time, others revisiting the same track where they had Breeders' Cup victories last year.
Three-year-old Rip Van Winkle is the contingent's hottest prospect, the 7-2 second-choice with jockey John Murtaugh behind undefeated mare Zenyatta in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Made the race's favorite by many European bookmakers, Rip Van Winkle is coming off consecutive victories in the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in England.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien said a long year, a long flight and a sore foot have given the colt trouble, but he's resilient.
"The journey took a little more out of him than the rest. He was bushed," O'Brien said after Rip Van Winkle worked on the Santa Anita track Wednesday.
O'Brien said the colt moved slowly but the trainer liked what he saw.
"He's been swimming against the tide all season but he is probably the most natural horse we've ever had, the most natural athlete."
All four of Rip Van Winkle's wins _ and all eight of his starts _ have come on the turf in Europe. But many attributed last year's European success to the similarity that Santa Anita's mixture of fiber, rubber and sand has to turf.
After fading to fourth aboard Curlin on the Pro-Ride surface in the Classic, jockey Robby Albarado said "it seemed like the synthetics played like a turf course," and trainer Steve Asmussen said the contest "was a turf race."
Raven's Pass last year was, like Rip Van Winkle, a turf horse making his first synthetic start in the classic.
"He's never been on the surface but he showed he's a beautiful mover," O'Brien said. "There's no doubt about it, if the season hasn't taken a toll."
O'Brien brought seven horses with him, the biggest traveling barn of any European trainer, including Mastercraftsman, who was pre-entered in the Classic but will instead run as the Cup's biggest morning-line favorite at 6-5 in the Dirt Mile. And O'Brien's Lillie Langtry is the 3-1 favorite in Friday's Juvenile Fillies Turf. Murtaugh will be in the irons for both.
Goldikova and Conduit each return to the United States as morning-line favorites and defending champions in their respective races.
The Ireland-bred Goldikova is the 8-5 favorite in the Turf Mile for French trainer Freddy Head, who last year became the first to win a Breeders' Cup race as a jockey and a trainer when he saddled Goldikova in the victory.
Conduit, also Irish bred, is 7-5 on the morning line in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf for British trainer Michael Stoute.
Stoute said Conduit was snorting and acting out on his first day among the American horses Wednesday, but that is to be expected.
"He acts like that at home, too," Stoute said. "Likes to let them know who's the boss."
Conduit is coming off a victory in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 4.
"He ran well in the Arc," Stoute said, "and he's taken this journey very well."
Conduit's stablemate Spanish Moon is the race's second choice.
Gate misbehavior had the 5-year-old Spanish Moon banned in England and forced him to race in France, where he has won two straight.
Spanish Moon schooled in the gate Wednesday morning, and Stoute isn't worried about him making a scene Saturday.
"He's been fine in France this year," Stoute said. "And this morning he had no problems at the gate."