01/22/2004 12:00AM

Dubai Sheikh may be at mercy of pace

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Owners and trainers generally prefer for their horse to face as few opponents as possible. In the case of Dubai Sheikh, a key scratch from Saturday's $50,000 Forego Stakes at Turfway Park would actually work against him.

Last month in the Holiday Cheer Stakes at Turfway, Dubai Sheikh was proven vulnerable when attempting to rally behind a slow early pace. Wild Lies set slow early fractions, and Dubai Sheikh seemed uncomfortable being rushed to stay within range of the leaders.

Although he rallied to edge Wild Lies for second, he never proved a threat to victorious Founding Chairman, who hit the front in midstretch after tracking the leader for much of the race.

The Forego is contested at 6 1/2 furlongs - a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Holiday Cheer - and there appears to be more speed entered to set up Dubai Sheikh's late run.

The complexion of the race could change by post time, however. Wild Lies was entered in the Forego and at Mountaineer Park on Sunday in a starter allowance, a $27,500 race in which he would seemingly be a clear favorite.

If he were scratched, that would likely leave Twin Talk in a position to set a slow to moderate pace in the Forego. That would put Dubai Sheikh in a position similar to what he faced in the Holiday Cheer.

Dubai Sheikh, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Dale Romans, must rely on his class to be successful. He won the Don Bernhardt Stakes at Ellis Park last year, along with three allowances.

He is at his best over fast tracks. Leading jockey Rafael Bejarano has the mount.

Twin Talk's chances will improve if Wild Lies starts at Mountaineer instead of Turfway. Twin Talk set the pace in a recent three-other-than allowance at Turfway and nearly resisted an off-the-pace rally from Are You Down.

Twin Talk makes his third start following a layoff. Mark Johnston rides.

Regardless of how the early stages of the Forego unfold, Founding Chairman appears to have the versatility to adapt. Up until recently he had been a midpack closer, but he showed a new dimension in the Holiday Cheer, winning under a stalking ride from Tony D'Amico. He won an entry-level allowance at Churchill Downs in November.

Crowned Dancer, Doc D, and Mr. Basset are other contenders. Crowned Dancer and Doc D have stakes experience, and Mr. Basset comes off a runaway victory in a two-other-than allowance on Jan. 1.