10/22/2007 11:00PM

Dylan Thomas has look of a single

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - Peer into the starting-gate berth numbered 7 when the runners in the Breeders' Cup Turf take their spots late Saturday afternoon, and you will see a horse generally rated the best 1 1/2-mile performer in the world. He is Dylan Thomas, and he is all but certain to be the shortest-priced favorite in any of the 11 Breeders' Cup races contested over two days this weekend at Monmouth Park.

The track's morning line on Dylan Thomas forecasts odds of 7-5, but his price could easily fall below even-money. And Breeders' Cup pick-six players lacking limitless funds will gravitate to Dylan Thomas as an apparently reliable single in an otherwise difficult sequence.

The Turf drew only eight final entries on Tuesday, and if all make the gate the 2007 edition will tie 2004 and 2002 for the fewest number of starters. While 11 started last year and 13 in 2005, a small field for the Turf has become typical, with fewer than 10 horses entered in four of the last six races. Prior to 2002, 18 editions of the Turf had an average field size of almost 12.5 horses.

Smaller fields mean a diminished chance of a horse getting into inextricable trouble, and with 12 furlongs from start to finish, the importance of post position is minimized in the Turf. Dylan Thomas, with John Murtagh named to ride for Aidan O'Brien, should have no trouble working out a decent trip from post 7.

"There aren't that many horses in there, so that's a lovely draw for him," Murtagh said.

The connections of Icy Atlantic had listed the Turf as their first preference, but opted instead for the Mile. Had he gone in the Turf, Icy Atlantic would have served as a pacemaker for English Channel, the probable second choice Saturday. Icy Atlantic played rabbit last year at Churchill, and wound up last, with English Channel third.

But Todd Pletcher said he put in a call to rival trainer Dale Romans to determine if Romans intended to start the front-running Fri Guy in the Turf. Romans said yes, and so Pletcher saw no need to use Icy Atlantic to make the pace.

"We just want to make sure that we have a horse to follow," Pletcher said.

Fri Guy drew post 1 and figures to go straight to the front, with English Channel in a tracking spot.

While compact, the Turf field still has quality, with both 2006 winner Red Rocks and 2004 hero Better Talk Now seeking to become the second two-time Turf winner. High Chaparral won in 2002 and dead-heated for first with Johar the next year.