12/15/2003 1:00AM

Falbrav heads out to stud in Japan


HONG KONG - The shooting star that was Falbrav shone at its most brightly at Sha Tin on Sunday as America's meager hopes of victory were dashed when Denon and Mister Acpen both ran up the track.

After winning the $2.4 million Hong Kong Cup by two lengths from Rakti at 7-10, Falbrav will soon depart for Shadai Farm in Hokkaido where owner Teruya Yoshida hopes the 5-year-old son of Fairy King can replace the recently deceased Japanese champion sire Sunday Silence.

Falbrav certainly has the credentials for the job. The winner of seven Group 1 races, five under the tutelage of Luca Cumani, he is as sound as a bell. This was his tenth Group 1 race in ten starts this season.

"Falbrav has established himself as the best ten-furlong horse in the world," Cumani said, "and right now he is the best horse in the world. I am so proud of him. Watching him win today was almost as exciting as watching 'Seabiscuit'.

Rider Frankie Dettori was equally awed, placing him in the company of Dubai Millennium and Fantastic Light with his assessment that "Falbrav is one of the very best horses I have ever ridden."

Purchased by Yoshida for $3 million after having won last year's Japan Cup, Falbrav was dominant in 1 1/4-mile contetsts this season. In addition to his Hong Cup Cup win, accomplished in a fast 2:00.90, he took the Eclipse Stakes, and the Juddmonte International and was narrowly beaten by High Chaparral in a controversial Irish Champion Stakes. He also won the one-mile Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the 1 1/8-mile Prix d'Ispahan.

The Cup was a triumph of sorts for Italian racing as both Falbrav and Rakti began their careers in Italy. Beaten by two lengths when Falbrav was first to reach a disappearing gap 1 1/2 furlongs out, Champion Stakes winner Rakti will race again next year for trainer Michael Jarvis.

Denon disappointed in the Cup, finishing eleventh, 13-3/4 lengths behind Falbrav, yet he ran no more poorly than did Mister Acpen in the $1.8 million Hong Kong Mile.

The Kristin Mulhall trainee was outpaced on the far turn and came home tenth, 11-1/4 lengths behind the 5.40-1 Lucky Owners, who defeated Bowman's Crossing, the replacement for the withdrawn Sarafan, by half a length with the Kent Desormeaux ridden Japanese favorite Lohengrin third.

The Mile winner was the second on the day for his trainer, the ex-jockey Tony Cruz and his South African rider Felix Coetzee. The pair had teamed earlier for the days most popular success with Silent Witness in the $1.8 million Hong Kong Sprint.

The local hero improved his record to 8-for-8 when he overhauled South African sprint champion National Currency at the 16th pole to record a one-length victory at 3-10 while getting the straight five furlongs in 56.50.

Silent Witness must now be considered one of the best sprinters in the world, but he will stay in Hong Kong this winter to go after the valuable Hong Kong Sprint Triple Crown before Cruz makes a decision about sending him to run elsewhere in the world.

Like last year, the $1.8 million Hong Kong Vase was a French affair as Vallee Enchantee and Polish Summer came home one-two, duplicating last year's race when it was Ange Gabriel and Aquaralliste who turned the trick.

Trained by Elie Lellouche for Ecurie Wildenstein, the 3-year-old filly Vallee Enchantee came with a late rush to win by three quarters of a length, getting the 1* miles on good to firm ground in 2:28.20.

And while the victories of Silent Witness and Lucky Owners bring the tally of locally trained winners to five of the last eight Hong Kong International Races, a figure that matches the home team American score in this year's Breeders' Cup, this was Falbrav's day. The chances are good that he will write his name large in the Japanese stud book.

*Jamie Spencer was fined $6,500 by the stewards of the Hong Kong Jockey Club for grabbing Christophe Soumillon around the neck in the jockeys' room after the first race. Spencer had taken exception to a remark Soumillon made about his Irish background after Spencer's mount had reared in the gate.

The Belgian-born Soumillon was crowned France's champion rider this year, but the 22-year-old is hardly a favorite with his confreres. This could be a big race rivalry to keep an eye on as Soumillon rides first string for the Aga Khan while Spencer has recently signed on to do likewise for Aidan O'Brien.