09/24/2003 11:00PM

Falbrav to like cutback in QE II


Falbrav, a six-time Group 1 winner at 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles, drops back to a mile at Ascot on Saturday for the $535,000 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, in what could be a prelude to an appearance in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

On the face of it, trainer Luca Cumani's decision to run Falbrav in the QEII seems daft, especially since Falbrav will be meeting accomplished milers such as Dubai Destination, Russian Rhythm, and defending champ Where or When. But there is a method to Cumani's madness.

The right-handed Ascot mile is uphill for the first five furlongs, so as miles go, this one is a test of stamina that should suit Falbrav and set him up perfectly for Santa Anita, if his owners decide to pay the $180,000 supplementary fee necessary to get him into the BC Turf.

A victory in the QEII could convince Falbrav's owners, Scuderia Rencati, that the Turf, rather than the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes, should be the next stop for him.

Dubai Destination seemed to confirm the promise of his juvenile victory over Rock of Gibraltar in the Champagne Stakes when he won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but the Godolphin-owned Dubai Destination was dull at Deauville when fifth behind Six Perfections and Domedriver in the Prix Jacques le Marois. This will be his acid test for passage into the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Russian Rhythm has done nothing wrong for trainer Michael Stoute this year, ripping off victories in the 1000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes, and the Nassau Stakes, the last of the three at 1 1/4 miles. The cutback to a mile will not trouble this Kingmambo filly, who is not likely to go in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Where or When is not the same horse he was last year, while listed winner Ikhtyar will run only in the likely event that the course softens up a bit.

* Necklace's victory in the seven-furlong, Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes makes her a favorite for the $330,000 Group 1 Fillies Mile. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, she should relish the extra furlong and holds an edge over the unbeaten Punctilious, who steps up from the allowance ranks. Donna Vita, Sundrop, and Tarot Card are all expected to improve off maiden victories.

* Snow Ridge probably will be the favorite in the Group 2, $165,000 Royal Lodge Stakes for juvenile colts and geldings off a sharp maiden score at Kempton, but the preference here is for Sgt Pepper, a Salisbury listed winner at the Royal Lodge's one-mile distance who is by hot young stallion Fasliyev.