10/27/2005 11:00PM

Battle Chant ships in for turf-filled day


ELMONT, N.Y. - Off-the-turf has been the phrase of the month at wet Belmont Park, but with Belmont's season coming to an end Sunday, there remains no reason to preserve the grass course.

So, racing officials here have created a mini turf festival, with seven grass races on Sunday's closing nine-race program. First post is 12:30, and the first five races are on turf. Later come the $65,000 Gaviola and the Grade 3 Knickerbocker, which was moved here after being rained out Friday. And the day's two dirt races are stakes, the Grade 3 Tempted and the Grade 2 Top Flight. Wednesday, it is on to a long Aqueduct winter.

Two were entered dirt-only in the Knickerbocker, 11 for turf, including Battle Chant, who shipped here from Maryland late this week along with trainer Graham Motion's Breeders' Cup horses. Battle Chant, in fact, has a close connection to Funfair, a Breeders' Cup Mile horse. Both are owned by Cheveley Park Farm, and both came to Motion last winter from England. Battle Chant probably was the more highly regarded of the two, Motion said, and is a flashier horse in morning works than Funfair, who won the Grade 2 Kelso in his last start. But Battle Chant is a talented horse, too. A 5-year-old Coronado's Quest gelding, he has won two of his four U.S starts, including a 4 3/4-length win Sept. 17 in the John Schapiro Stakes at Laurel Park.

trained well going into his stakes win, and Motion believes he has held form. But there are plenty of other ways to go in the Knickerbocker, contested at 1 1/8 miles over Belmont's inner turf course.

has cleaned up in New York-bred stakes, but has enough inherent ability to have finished second by a nose in the 2004 Red Smith Handicap. Latino Magic had a wide trip when he finished a close sixth in the Kelso, his U.S. debut. The gelding Atlando is in from France for his first start in this country, and has listed stakes form not far off the best horses in the Knickerbocker. Request for Parole has lost eight straight since winning the U.N. Handicap last summer.

And then you get to the two outside-drawn horses, . We All Love Aleyna was bottled up inside almost the entire way when he finished a close fourth to Singletary in the Oak Tree Mile, but nine furlongs may be farther than his best race. Saint Stephen had progressed steadily before a sixth in the Grade 1 Manhattan in early June. Saint Stephen has not raced since, but the Knickerbocker is an easier spot at a better distance.