09/25/2007 11:00PM

BC Turf: English Channel tops Americans

EmailThere is a sense of mystery surrounding the run-up to the Breeders' Cup Turf as all but two of the original 14 invitees to Sunday's Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont declined the honor. One of those that will run, Kiss the Kid, has never won beyond 1 1/16 miles, but the other, English Channel, looms the prohibitive favorite in the 1 1/2-mile test.

There is no better 1 1/2-mile turf horse in America than English Channel. Although he blotted his record this year when 12th in the Dubai Sheema Classic when he could not run with Lasix, he is the defending Turf Classic champion. Two back, he took his second straight United Nations, while last time he finished second to Grand Couturier in the Sword Dancer, giving the winner six pounds.

On Saturday, he will be equally weighted with Mustanfar, whose lone win at 1 1/2 miles came in Keeneland's Grade 3 Sycamore Handicap in October 2004. Late Turf Classic invitee Interpatation has never won beyond 1 1/8 miles, but 1 1/4-mile Secretariat Stakes winner Shamdinan could improve on his Man o' War fifth if Doug O'Neill has found the key to the French import.

The Tin Man will go in the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita on Oct. 6, but that 1 1/4-mile race will not answer any questions about his ability to stay the 12 furlongs of the Turf. The Tin Man did that once when winning the San Luis Obsipo in February 2003, but has not been that far since finishing fifth in the BC Turf eight months later.

English Channel's Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Sunriver will work up to the Turf. As will Better Talk Now, who has been out of action since his United Nations third on July 7. He could be switched to the Canadian International on Oct. 21. Grand Couturier also is being considered for the Turf and the Canadian International.

Viva Pataca's Turf venture has come to an end as his owner, Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho, decided not to obtain an American owner's license.

The three favorites remain on course for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Oct. 7. Authorized, Soldier of Fortune, and Dylan Thomas are all expert at 12 furlongs.