11/25/2002 1:00AM

Falbrav survives protest to win Japan Cup

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Sarafan was denied victory in the $3.89 million Japan Cup on Sunday after a rough battle with Italian invader Falbrav, who gave Frankie Dettori his second big race triumph of the weekend at Nakayama.

Falbrav finished a nose in front of Sarafan, but Sarafan's trainer, Neil Drysdale, and jockey, Corey Nakatani, were not finished fighting yet. A claim of foul was lodged against the winner, who was leaning in on Sarafan near the line. Earlier, Sarafan had drifted out a bit, brushing with Falbrav inside the sixteenth pole.

The stewards disallowed the claim, and Falbrav, a 4-year-old Luciano d'Auria-trained son of Fairy King, won at 19-1.

Nakatani, however, believed Sarafan got the worst of the bumping.

"The stewards did a bad job," he said. "Falbrav bumped into me. I'm not happy or satisfied at all."

Dettori, on the other hand, was over the moon. On Saturday he had guided the Eagle Cafe to victory in the Japan Cup Dirt.

"I'm the happiest man in the world," Dettori exclaimed as he dismounted Falbrav, the first non-Japanese-trained horse to win the Japan Cup since Pilsudski in 1997.

Falbrav, who was coming off a dull ninth behind Marienbard in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, surpassed the form that had won him a pair of Group 1 races in Italy, the Premio Presidente della Repubblica and the Gran Premio di Milano.

Symboli Kris S, the 7-5 favorite in the field of 16, missed the break but finished well to be third, a neck behind Sarafan, who was sent off at 34-1.

There were just 2 1/2 lengths separating first from seventh. Defending champ Jungle Pocket ran well off a seven-month absence to be fifth, while Breeders' Cup Turf flop Golan finished seventh after being close up throughout.

Falbrav was timed in 2:12.20 for the 1 3/8 miles on firm ground.

Locals go 1-2-3 in Dirt

Dettori rode an inspired race on Eagle Cafe ($19-1) to capture the Grade 1, $2.05 million Japan Cup Dirt. Reba's Gold and Abreeze, the two United States shippers, finished ninth and 12th.

Eagle Cafe, trained in Japan by Futoshi Kojima, delivered a late run up the rail under Dettori to beat 124-1 outsider Regent Bluff by one length. The 6-5 favorite, Admire Don, finished third, making for a 1-2-3 Japanese finish.

- additional reporting by International Racing Bureau