09/26/2006 11:00PM

Arc runners may show up for a change


Considering that European horses have won or dead-heated for first in six of the last seven runnings of the Breeders' Cup Turf, probably the most logical place to start looking for the winner of the 2006 Turf is overseas.

The race that figures to have the most impact on the Turf - at least as far as the foreign contingent is concerned - will be run this weekend. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, set for Sunday at Longchamp, drew several of the world's top turf horses in its field of 12, most notably Hurricane Run, Deep Impact, and the 2005 BC Turf winner, Shirocco.

More often than not, the Arc winner does not wheel back in the Turf, but usually that has been because of the relatively short amount of time between the two races. This year, however, the races are five weeks apart - as opposed to the customary three or four weeks - and the more favorable timing might lead to the connections of the Arc winner, if not one or more of the top Arc finishers, making the trip to Churchill Downs.

Any such development would be a huge coup for the Breeders' Cup, especially if one of the Arc favorites were to win Sunday and then travel here. Hurricane Run and Shirocco are ranked first and second on the initial roster of Daily Racing Form contenders for the 2006 Turf, and they form a core of prospects that could make this one of the deepest and most exciting renewals of the Turf in years. Deep Impact, the Japanese superstar, is considered unlikely to come to America regardless of what transpires in the Arc.

As for the American contingent, there is no lack of familiar names among contenders. Cacique and English Channel, who already have gone toe-to-toe in four Grade 1 races this year, rank highest on the list, just above the Arlington Million winner The Tin Man and proven grass veterans such as Go Deputy, T.H. Approval, and the 2004 BC Turf winner, Better Talk Now.

The most critical American prep comes next weekend with the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park. The most notable West Coast prep, the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship, is set for Saturday at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.

There is another handful of possibilities for the race, depending what occurs over the next few weeks. Those fringe contenders include Dylan Thomas, who runs next weekend in the Jockey Club Gold Cup; Showing Up, who appears more likely for the BC Mile; and several horses who would need a big final prep to merit inclusion, such as American runners Relaxed Gesture, King's Drama, and Silver Whistle, and such Euros as Ace, Sir Percy, Soldier Hollow, and the French mare Pride.

The Turf, which had its purse bumped from $2 million to $3 million earlier this year by Breeders' Cup Ltd., is run at 1 1/2 miles, meaning the race will start at the five-eighths pole on the seven-furlong Churchill layout and be run around three turns.