10/08/2001 11:00PM

Arc winner on the fence for Breeders' Cup

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With most of Europe's Breeders' Cup preps now completed, the number of foreign invaders for racing's big day on Oct. 27 could be as small as 16. The most prominent of the confirmed challengers, Fantastic Light, will make his farewell appearance in the Breeders' Cup Classic, after which he will be retired to stud in England.

But much of the attention at this stage is focused on the forthcoming decision of Hamdan al-Maktoum over which race will be next for his sensational Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, Sakhee.

Though Sakhee races in the colors of Godolphin and is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, it is Sheikh Hamdan who is the principal owner. Sakhee has been aimed at the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes on Oct. 20 at Newmarket ever since he won the Juddmonte International on Aug. 21. It now appears that Hamdan will stick to that plan as long as Sakhee can recover quickly enough from the Arc to be ready on just 13 days' rest.

If not, Godolphin has the option of sending him to either the Breeders' Cup Turf or the Japan Cup on Nov. 22. Four factors weigh in favor of one of those races.

First is a longer rest period. Second, Sakhee would not have to cut back to 1 1/4 miles. Third, both races are part of the Emirates World Series that Godolphin so enjoys winning. Fourth, they offer higher purse money, the Turf being worth $2 million, the Japan Cup $4 million, the Champion $600,000.

Going against Sakhee's participation in the Turf is the presence of Canadian International winner Mutamam. Trained by Alex Stewart, Mutamam is also owned by Sheikh Hamdan, who may want to keep them apart. Moreover, the Champion Stakes is sponsored by the Emirate of Dubai, and the Maktoums like winning races they sponsor.

There are three other possible invaders for the Turf: Milan, Moon Queen, and Daliapour. St. Leger winner Milan finished fastest of all when fifth in the Arc and may join as many as four other Aidan O'Brien runners at Belmont. Moon Queen was the front running winner of Saturday's 1 9/16-mile Group 2 Prix de Royallieu, after which both trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and owner Joseph Allen expressed a keen interest in the Turf.

Fantastic Light will meet Galileo for the third time in the Classic. Galileo took the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, but Fantastic Light got his revenge in the Irish Champion Stakes. On Tuesday, Godolphin announced that Fantastic Light, a Rahy 5-year-old, would be retired after the Classic to stand at Sheikh Mohammed's Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket.

Aidan O'Brien will choose between the Classic and the Mile for Black Minnaloushe, a two-time Group 1 winner at a mile. Noverre is definite for Godolphin in the Mile, while Michael Stoute is contemplating that race for Medicean, a Group 1 winner this year at both a mile and 10 furlongs.

Pascal Bary will run Amonita in Sunday's seven-furlong Group 1 Prix de la Foret as a prep for the Mile, but she would have to improve a bit to qualify for the Cup.

Although Banks Hill was scratched by Andre Fabre from the Prix de l'Opera because of the ground, she still has the Filly and Mare Turf, for which Lailani is the favorite, as first choice, with the Mile as second choice. Spring Oak, third in the E.P. Taylor, is a possible for the Filly and Mare Turf.

Finally, Aidan O'Brien is priming Mozart for the Sprint and Johannesburg for the Juvenile. Both add luster to the Breeders' Cup foreign contingent as they are sure to be named European champions in their divisions.