10/21/2003 11:00PM

Dettori gives edge to Sulamani

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf has been the defining race in the United States in recent years for top European jockey Frankie Dettori.

Teaming with the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing and trainer Saeed bin Suroor, Dettori won the Turf with Daylami in 1999 and Fantastic Light in 2001. He has one other Breeders' Cup win in his career - Barathea in the 1994 Mile.

Saturday at Santa Anita, Dettori has two Breeders' Cup mounts, both for Godolphin - Mezzo Soprano in the Filly and Mare Turf and Sulamani in the Turf.

His best chance is aboard Sulamani, a colt who has won stakes in Dubai and Belmont Park this year and finished second in the $1.2 million King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in July.

Since midsummer, Sulamani has been based in the United States. He finished second in the Arlington Million, but was promoted to first after Storming Home was disqualified and placed second for causing interference in deep stretch.

In the Grade 1 Turf Classic at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park on Sept. 27, Sulamani was an impressive winner, overcoming a stumble on the final turn to rally wide under Jerry Bailey and win by 2 3/4 lengths.

That experience over American tracks, tighter-turned than the European tracks, is an invaluable asset, Dettori said.

"He's run twice in the United States and he's had the experience," Dettori said. "It's a great plus."

Sulamani is one of four leading contenders for the Turf, which drew nine entrants on Wednesday. The race is led by Storming Home, the winner of the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship here on Sept. 28; defending champion High Chaparral; and Falbrav, the winner of four major stakes in Europe this year.

Balto Star, Bright Sky, Falbrav, The Tin Man, and Toccet will be longshots. Bright Sky was a late addition to the field. A Group 2 winner in France this year, Bright Sky was also pre-entered for the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf, but Wildenstein Stable and trainer Elie Lellouche opted for a try in the richer turf race at 12 furlongs rather than Filly and Mare Turf at 1 1/4 miles.

"Storming Home and Falbrav are not pushovers," Dettori said. "Falbrav is a super horse and you have to respect him. He has tactical speed. He's definitely the horse to beat.

"Falbrav, Storming Home, and Sulamani all love firm ground. You're not going to bring a horse that needs soft ground."

Dettori did not list High Chaparral among the horses he fears, but the defending champion of the Turf is trying to rebound from a well-beaten third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Oct. 5.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien is certain that High Chaparral will relish firm turf. "I think he'll like the firm ground, the fast mile and a half, and the left-handed turns," he said.