11/11/2005 1:00AM

Air Messiah preps for Japan Cup


Air Messiah, the winner of two graded stakes since being narrowly beaten by Cesario in the Japanese Oaks on May 22, will test Japan's best older fillies and mares at Kyoto on Sunday in the Grade 1 . Victories over Rhein Kraft this fall in both the Shuka Sho and the Roses Stakes could earn Air Messiah the favorite's role in this $1.65 million contest.

This 1 3/8-mile filly-mare prep for the 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup on Nov. 27 also features Sweep Tosho, the winner of the 1 3/8-mile Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen against colts on June 26. An End Sweep 4-year-old, Sweep Tosho has been knocking heads with Japan's better males all year and will prove a difficult nut to crack. So, too, will Yamanin Alabaster, a 4-year-old daughter of 1991 Japan Cup winner Golden Pheasant, who has won at the Grade 3 level in her last two outings.

The British-trained Summitville, the lone foreign invader in the 18-runner field, can challenge if she runs back to her close second in the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes on Oct. 1.

* Vengeance of Rain, a three-time Group 1 winner in Hong Kong last season, will use Sunday's $386,700 Group 2 International Cup Trial at Sha Tin as a prep for the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup on Dec. 11.

Although the David Ferraris-trained Vengeance of Rain has been unplaced in two starts since the new Hong Kong season began in September, those races both came over a mile, which is too short for him.