11/21/2005 1:00AM

American horses get acclimated


The American quartet for this weekend's two-race, $6 million extravaganza at Tokyo Racecourse took it rather easy last weekend, doing nothing more strenuous than cantering or galloping around the track at the Shiroi Quarantine Center.

Acclimating to new surroundings after an arduous trans-Pacific journey is never easy. Better Talk Now and King's Drama, who go in Sunday's $4 million Japan Cup, both traveled 6,700 miles from New York, as did Tap Dance, a candidate for Saturday's $2 million Japan Cup Dirt. By comparison, Japan Cup Dirt hopeful Lava Man had it relatively easy during his 5,400-mile trip from Los Angeles.

Better Talk Now and King's Drama both jogged two miles around the dirt track at Shiroi on Sunday, while Lava Man and Tap Day galloped a mile. No times were taken by Japan Racing Association work watchers, but exercise rider Mike Tenney was satisfied with Better Talk Now's early preparation for the 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup.

"He's in better condition than he was for the Breeders' Cup Turf," Tenney said of the three-time Grade 1 winner. "We intend to jog him again on Tuesday at Tokyo Racecourse."

Bobby Frankel is taking a similar tack with King's Drama. The recent Red Smith Handicap winner joined Better Talk Now and Tap Day for the 40-mile van journey from Shiroi to Tokyo Racecourse on Monday and will remain in light exercise for the next few days. The Mark Hennig-trained Meadowlands Cup winner Tap Day is scheduled for a midweek blowout prior to his date in the 1 5/16-mile Japan Cup Dirt.

Leandro Mora, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, has been monitoring the progress of Lava Man, the Hollywood Gold Cup winner. "He's in such good shape we won't be doing any strong gallops at Tokyo this week," said Mora, who will be deputizing for O'Neill in Japan this week. Hennig arrives on Wednesday while Better Talk Now's trainer, Graham Motion, was scheduled to touch down on Tuesday.

Two of the Japan Cup's European challengers, Bago and Ouija Board, both returned home to France and England, respectively, after their efforts in the Breeders' Cup but have settled in well at Shiroi. Likewise, the British horse Eccentric, a Japan Cup Dirt hopeful. Defending champ Zenno Rob Roy will head up the home defense in the Japan Cup, while a pair of 3-year-olds, Kane Hekili and the Hennessy colt Sunrise Bacchus, hope to make things unpleasant for the American raiders in what is shaping up as a highly competitive edition of the Japan Cup Dirt.

Hat Trick upsets heavy favorite

Hat Trick denied Durandal a Mile Championship hat trick of his own when he came from far out of it to grab the Grade 1, $1.55 million Mile at Kyoto on Sunday by a nose from runner-up Daiwa Major.

The 1-2 favorite, Durandal was seeking his third straight Mile Championship title but Hat Trick, a 4-year-old Sunday Silence colt trained by Katsushiko Sumii, flew home the last three furlongs under Olivier Peslier in 33.30 seconds. Christophe Lemaire made it a one-two finish for French jockeys in Japan as he was aboard the unlucky Daiwa Major, who is also a son of Sunday Silence. The 10-1 winner covered the mile on firm ground in a swift 1:32.10. Rhein Kraft, a 3-year-old filly and second choice at 5-1, was third with Durandal closing to be eighth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths.

* In the absence of Silent Witness and Cape of Good Hope, Sunday's five-furlong $386,700 International Sprint Trial at Sha Tin in Hong Kong fell to the 6-1 Planet Ruler with Able Prince 1 1/2 lengths back in second. Those two are expected to challenge two-time defending champ Silent Witness in the Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 11.

In the Group 2, $386,700 International Mile Trial, a local prep for the Hong Kong Mile, Dave's Best scored a 78-1 upset by a neck over Bullish Luck, the horse who had beaten Silent Witness in the Champions Mile in May.