10/23/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - Turf: High Chaparral heads compact cast

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The field for Saturday's $2.4 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park has everything but numbers.

High Chaparral, the winner of the English and Irish derbies, will be a strong favorite in a field of eight that includes major stakes winners from California, Canada, England, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.

There is Golan, one of England's top older horses; Denon and With Anticipation, the top distance horses on turf in the United States; Ballingarry, the winner of the Canadian International; The Tin Man, a front-runner from California; and longshots Falcon Flight and Perfect Soul.

With eight entrants, the Turf will have its smallest field in history.

"Theoretically, it sounds good, like it would be less cluttered, but they may race tight," said trainer Michael Stoute, who will saddle Golan.

High Chaparral is attempting to give top European trainer Aidan O'Brien his first winner in the Turf. The 3-year-old High Chaparral finished third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 6, missing by a 1 1/2 lengths to Marienbard in his first start since the Irish Derby in late June.

During part of the summer, High Chaparral was out with a virus that plagued trainer Aidan O'Brien's stable.

Despite the setback and the single prep race, he is well regarded by his rivals.

"Looking at first glance, you have to respect High Chaparral," Stoute said.

The trainers with the leading contenders from the American team hope they have the first jump on High Chaparral and Golan in Arlington's short stretch. At the least, they are familiar foes.

Denon and With Anticipation have faced each other three times this year, including two memorable clashes during the summer. With Anticipation edged Denon by a neck in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park in July. A month later, With Anticipation caught Denon at the wire of the Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga, scoring by a head in a thrilling finish. Denon turned the tables in the Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Sept. 29, with With Anticipation finishing a dull sixth.

Through it all, trainer Bobby Frankel learned that Denon is best when racing close to the pace. "He's the sort of horse that you have to ride out of the gate," Frankel said.

Last year, With Anticipation raced near the lead in a nine-race campaign that featured four stakes wins. In the 2001 Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park, he finished a disappointing seventh. This year, With Anticipation has won 3 of 7 starts, racing just off the pace.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard does not expect With Anticipation to be too far from the pacesetter, The Tin Man, or a stalking Ballingarry, hoping that the strategy gives the 7-year-old With Anticipation an advantage on High Chaparral and Golan when the pace is likely to quicken in the final half-mile.

"It could set up well in the stretch," Sheppard said.

A victory by Falcon Flight, Perfect Soul, or The Tin Man would be a shock.

Perfect Soul has never won a stakes, and was only fourth in the Canadian International. Falcon Flight was an unlucky fifth in the Arlington Million, but only second to the well-respected Ballingarry in the Canadian International on Sept. 29. The Tin Man has never tried 1 1/2 miles, but was a convincing winner of the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship at Santa Anita on Oct. 6.

Frankel, for one, is conceding nothing to the Europeans.

"Obviously, they're very good horses," Frankel said. "But you can't go for reputations. They all have to come here and run."