11/18/2005 1:00AM

All signs point to Hurricane Run

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Arc winner Hurricane Run is likely to be crowned the world's top-rated horse in January.

NEW YORK - Clues as to who will emerge as the world's top-rated horse of 2005 were much in evidence this week. Barring any extraordinary developments in Tokyo or Hong Kong during the next few weeks, Hurricane Run is very likely to be crowned international champion when the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities announces its final World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings in January.

Hurricane Run, who took honors as Cartier Racing Awards Horse of the Year on Wednesday, leads the interim WTRR ratings, released Nov. 14, with a mark of 130. That pegs the Irish Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner two pounds higher than Ghostzapper, four pounds better than third-place Azamour, and five pounds better than fifth-place Shirocco, the handy Breeders' Cup Turf winner who finished 4 1/4 lengths behind Hurricane Run in the Arc.

Ghostzapper's 128 was earned for his easy score in the Metropolitan Handicap in May and would seem to assure him the top spot among the world's dirt horses. Afleet Alex is rated at 124 for his Preakness effort, while Saint Liam is on the same mark for his Breeders' Cup Classic victory. Lava Man, at 119 for his Hollywood Gold Cup triumph, would have to run well beyond anything he has yet achieved to haul in Ghostzapper when he goes in the Japan Cup Dirt on Nov. 26.

Bago - tied for eighth in the world with Afleet Alex, Saint Liam, Makybe Diva, and Starcraft at 124 - will have a chance to improve his mark in the Japan Cup on Nov. 27, while Westerner, currently at 126 with Azamour, could move up with a big effort in the Hong Kong Vase on Dec. 11.

That will be the day when Silent Witness goes after his third consecutive Hong Kong Sprint title. The world's highest rated sprinter is tied for 13th on the list at 123 with David Junior, Dubawi, Oratorio, and Proclamation. That puts him five pounds ahead of America's top-rated sprinter, Lost in the Fog, who is in a 12-way deadlock for 50th place at 118.

The odd man out in all of this is undefeated Japanese Triple Crown winner Deep Impact. He is rated at 120 for his four-length Japanese Derby victory, one pound below countrymate and Juddmonte International runner-up Zenno Rob Roy, who will seek a repeat of his 2004 Japan Cup victory next Sunday. Unfortunately, the connections of Deep Impact have decided to bypass the Japan Cup in favor of the Dec. 25 Arima Kinen, in which he will face no foreign runners, thus depriving international handicappers of a key benchmark.

Dettori intends to stay loyal to Godolphin

Frankie Dettori fanned the flames surrounding the supposed feud between Godolphin and Coolmore on Tuesday when he announced on Britain's Radio Five that he had made a mistake in accepting the winning ride aboard the Aidan O'Brien-trained Scorpion in the classic St. Leger Stakes on Sept. 10, and that he would never again ride for O'Brien.

Coming two months after the fact, could it be that the Italian rider has come under pressure from Sheikh Mohammed and company to make it clear that he is Godolphin's man in the saddle and no one else's? The Godolphin hierarchy doesn't mind when their contract rider accepts an assignment for a minor trainer in a maiden at Yarmouth or Beverley, but apparently doesn't like the idea of his riding for Coolmore in a classic, even when Godolphin itself doesn't have a horse in the race, as was the case in the St. Leger.

Coolmore's John Magnier was magnanimous about it all at the Cartier Awards in London on Wednesday night. Referring to the trophies he picked up for juvenile champions George Washington and Rumplestiltskin, Magnier quipped: "I would like to thank Aidan and his team and everyone who made it possible - least of all Frankie Dettori! Frankie, we still love you and we forgive you, because you know not what you do."

Tales of a serious spat between Godolphin and Coolmore emerged during the October Tattersalls sale at Newmarket when, according to published reports, it was rumored that Godolphin would no longer support any of Coolmore's stallions, nor bid on any of their stallions' offspring in the ring. As Magnier later said, "Racing is a funny game." It is also one in which envy has been known to play a role.

Valuable as well as beautiful

Strapped for cash, the New York Racing Association is attempting to auction off 19 of its prized possessions at Sotheby's in New York on Dec. 2. Equestrian paintings hanging in NYRA offices are expected to bring up to $1,061,000, just enough to fund next year's Jockey Club Gold Cup. The sale, however, is in dispute as New York State regulators contend that the paintings belong to the state, not to NYRA.

If the sale goes ahead the headliner will be John Herring Sr.'s portrait of a galloping Flying Dutchman, the winner in 1849 of both the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger, as well as the most famous match race of the 19th century when he defeated Voltigeur by a length at York. The Flying Dutchman is expected to bring between $300,000 and $400,000.

Also on the block are nine pictures by the late 19th-early 20th century American equine artist Henry Stull, including depictions of the 1902 Belmont Stakes and Suburban Handicap; Henry Hull's portrait of 1864 Epsom Derby and St. Leger winner Blair Athol; and Herring's portrait of the filly Blue Bonnet, winner of the 1842 St. Leger.

NYRA officials have long been used to looking at empty seats at Belmont and Aqueduct. Now they may have to get used to empty walls in the executive offices. Maybe they can fill the blank spaces with pictures of slot machines.