04/13/2007 12:00AM

Dream Journey faces tough challenge

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Dream Journey's title as Japan's 2-year-old champion may not do him much good in Sunday's $1.97 million Satsuki Sho, or Japanese 2000 Guineas, at Nakayama, where he will be challenged by the fast-improving Admire Aura.

Trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, Dream Journey landed Japanese juvenile honors with his last-to-first victory in the one-mile Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes in December. By Stay Gold, winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic and Hong Kong Vase, Dream Journey cast doubt on his classic aspirations when he ran third to Admire Aura in the 1 1/4-mile Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho, a March 4 course-and-distance prep for the Japanese 2000.

Admire Aura's only loss in four starts came at the hands of last week's Japanese 1000 Guineas winner, Daiwa Scarlet, in a 1 1/8-mile Chukyo allowance last December, but he avenged that defeat on Jan. 8, taking the one-mile Grade 3 Shinzan Kinen.

Two others to consider are Namura Mars, a Chief Bearhart colt who won the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Mainichi Hai on March 24, and Flying Apple, a Kentucky-bred son of Rahy who is nominated to the American Triple Crown and who is coming off a fast-closing score in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Spring Stakes at Nakayama on March 18.