09/30/2002 11:00PM

Elusive City vs. Zafeen again in Middle Park


Elusive City, the unbeaten winner of the Prix Morny, will cross swords again with Zafeen in what looks a high-class renewal of the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Thursday.

Trained by Gerard Butler for The Thoroughbred Corporation, Elusive City beat Zafeen by three-quarters of a length at the Middle Park's six-furlong distance in the Morny at Deauville on Aug. 25. That form was boosted when Zafeen landed the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury.

Once more there is unlikely to be much separating the pair. Butler may face his most anxious moments when Elusive City is being loaded into the gate, as the colt has acted up badly before his last two starts, and Butler publicly thanked the Deauville handlers for their patience before the Morny.

There is another unbeaten colt in the 11-runner Middle Park: the David Loder-trained Country Reel. Like Elusive Quality, he was supplemented to this $220,000 contest at a cost of $17,520. His most recent start resulted in a half-length victory in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York six weeks ago.

Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien has won this race for the past two years, and he has given himself an excellent chance of completing a hat trick by entering no fewer than four runners. All are American-bred colts with classy pedigrees.

The pick of the O'Brien quartet could be Tomahawk, who has not raced since he failed by a short head as the heavy favorite in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.