10/02/2007 11:00PM

English Channel looking sharp

EmailTaking a page from Grand Couturier, who beat him coming up the rail in the Sword Dancer, English Channel impressed with his handy score in Sunday's Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park. Once the inside opened, he was in front and clear in an instant, and while he was not beating much, he did it with authority. It is doubtful that anything in Saturday's Clement Hirsch at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting could pose a serious threat to him in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

The Tin Man will face a short field in the Clement Hirsch, whose 1 1/4 miles suits him perfectly. He won it in 2003 and again last year and should hold off Runaway Dancer, although Runaway Dancer, winner of the Sunset Handicap, may prove better at the Turf distance of 1 1/2 miles.

The Tin Man is one horse who would benefit by the addition of a 10-furlong turf Cup race. Another who is caught in the great divide between the Mile and the Turf is After Market, who didn't quite get up in the Kelso Handicap while giving the winner nine pounds. Meanwhile, Shakespeare, whose win in the Woodbine Mile makes him one of the BC Mile favorites, may yet wind up in the Turf as trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said on Wednesday that he will pre-enter him in both races. McLaughlin fears that an outside draw in the Mile could harm the late-

running Shakespeare's chances.

That is a problem that might limit the number of European entries in this year's Cup. With turns that are excruciatingly tight by European standards and a stretch that barely measures 1 1/2 furlongs, Monmouth is hardly conducive to the running styles of most European horses.

What any Turf possibles will face in Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe bears no resemblance to anything they they will encounter at Monmouth. The Arc will be run on soft ground, giving Authorized and Soldier of Fortune an advantage over Dylan Thomas, who at this pre-Arc stage is the most likely BC Turf contestant from Europe. He loves firm ground and is more experienced than his Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate, Soldier of Fortune. His dull fourth in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup can be excused, as it was his lone try on dirt. At least he learned his way from Ireland to America on that trip.