11/26/2003 12:00AM

Few Americans in Hong Kong fields


A disappointingly small group of just four American-trained horses has been selected to run in the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Dec. 14.

And as all four of those invitees, Johar in the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase, Denon in the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup, and Sarafan and Mister Acpen in the Hong Kong Mile, are running this weekend, there is a possibility of even fewer American runners appearing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's showcase event, as every one of them would have to run back on just two weeks notice.

The initial list of selected horses is subject to change, as horsemen may decide to run elsewhere or not at all. Declining horses would be replaced by others, and Americans could be among the new invitees.

Johar, Denon and Sarafan will all run in the 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup on Sunday. Before leaving for Tokyo, Johar's trainer Dick Mandella said that he was considering the Hong Kong Vase for his Breeders' Cup Turf winner, but that a decision would not be made until after the Japan Cup. Something the trainers of the American trio in the Japan Cup will have to take into account is the 1,774-mile journey from Tokyo to Hong Kong.

Should Johar line up for the $1.8 million Vase he could once again be facing Japan Cup rivals Ange Gabriel and Fields Of Omagh as well as European Group 1 winners Fair Mix, Warrsan and Imperial Dancer.

If Denon goes in the Hong Kong Cup, he will be running into the redoubtable Falbrav as wells as Champion Stakes winner Rakti, both of whom are declared runners for the $2.3 million race. On Wednesday, Luca Cumani announced that Frankie Dettori will replace Darryll Holland aboard Falbrav, a four-time Group 1 winner this year, who was a game third behind Johar and High Chaparral in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Arlington Million runner-up Paolini, 2001 Hong Kong Mile winner Eishin Preston and Group 2 Prix Dollar winner Weightless, briefly considered by Pascal Bary for the Breeders' Cup Classic, are also in the Cup field.

Sarafan, fourth in last year's Vase after being nosed out by Falbrav in the Japan Cup, and Mister Acpen, who goes in Saturday's Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park, would be facing a largely Asian field in the $1.8 million Hong Kong Mile. The four highest rated Mile invitees are Lohengrin, Telegnosis and Admire Max from Japan and France's Special Kaldoun, who was 3-1/4 lengths ninth in Sunday's Mile Championship at Kyoto.

The 5-furlong Hong Kong Sprint lacks an American challenger at this stage but the $1.8 million dash has attracted South African sprint champ National Currency, British Group 2 Diadem Stakes winner Acclamation, and the locally trained Silent Witness, who stretched his unbeaten record to 7-for-7 when taking the International Sprint Trial at Sha Tin on Sunday.