10/18/2001 11:00PM

BC Turf: It won't be easy, but Chorwon's game


ELMONT, N.Y. - It is hard for trainer Hal Wiggins to recall a time when Chorwon was not part of his Kentucky-based barn. "We've had him about six years and he's like part of the family," Wiggins said.

Since March 23, 1996, the day he debuted with a third-place finish in a one-mile turf race at Fair Grounds, Chorwon has been a fixture on Wiggins's team, winning 13 of 41 starts at 10 tracks. He has won at venues as small as Sam Houston and Remington Park and as big as Keeneland and Churchill Downs.

Next Saturday, the 8-year-old Chorwon runs the most important race of his career, the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park. Wiggins admits that winning the nation's richest turf race will be difficult, but is convinced that Chorwon has earned the trip.

This fall, Chorwon, a late-running gray, won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap at Kentucky Downs by five lengths and finished second by a nose in the Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 7. In a race expected to draw Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee and major U.S. stakes winners Blueprint, Hap, Timboroa, and With Anticipation, Chorwon's Midwest form may be overlooked.

The Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap was Chorwon's first stakes win since the Louisville Handicap in May 1999. "I'm pleased that at 8 he's still running this well," Wiggins said. "We don't want to go out there and be embarrassed. It's hard to get a gauge on the Europeans."

The nose loss on Oct. 7 did not discourage Wiggins. "It was a good run," he said. "He just got outnodded at the wire. That was only two weeks after the Kentucky Downs race and that was the quickest I've probably run him back.

"His last two races were probably as good as he's put two together. He makes us think he's on top of his game. All the signs are promising."

Chorwon will be the second Breeders' Cup starter for Wiggins. In 1994, he started Morris Code in the Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, but she failed to finish after displacing her soft palate. "We need to improve on our record," Wiggins said.

Chorwon has started at Belmont Park twice, finishing fourth in the 1998 Bowling Green Handicap and fifth in the same race a year later. A Texas native, Wiggins, 58, has raced in the South for much of his career. He was based at Louisiana Downs and Oaklawn Park in the 1980's and moved to Churchill Downs in 1993 at the urging of Chorwon's breeder, the late Thomas Mueller of Fort Smith, Ark. Mueller's widow, Phoebe Mueller, campaigns Chorwon.

In Kentucky, Wiggins was the leading trainer at the 1998 Keeneland fall meeting and topped the standings at the brief Kentucky Downs meeting in 2000. A win or a placing by Chorwon would add to the trainer's accomplishments. "We can't dictate what the others will do, but we'll come from behind and make a run," Wiggins said. "I'm sure we'll be one of the longshots. It's a matter of whether they stop in front of us."

Sakhee, Slew Valley work

Sakhee, expected to be favored, and Slew Valley, who will be a longshot, worked on Friday. Sakhee, a winner of his last three starts including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor. Also pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup Classic, Sakhee worked five furlongs on dirt in 1:05.20 at Belmont Park.

"He didn't start really until the three-eighths pole," said assistant trainer Tom Albertrani. "It took him awhile to get into his stride." Sakhee has never raced on dirt, but trained over it in Dubai last year. On turf, he has won on ground ranging from soft to firm, which enhances his reputation regardless of race conditions next week.

Slew Valley worked six furlongs

in 1:15.60 at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland.