10/16/2003 12:00AM

High Chaparral hardly a cinch to repeat


ARCADIA, Calif. - High Chaparral may be the defending champion of the Breeders' Cup Turf, but he will be left with something to prove when he starts in the $2 million race at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

This year, High Chaparral will not be a 4-5 favorite like he was at Arlington Park last year. He faces too much competition from the American-based horses and stakes winners from Europe to be a standout.

High Chaparral is one of four notable stakes winners on the list of pre-entered horses announced Thursday.

Storming Home is the best hope of the American-based runners, having won the Jim Murray and Charles Whittingham handicaps at Hollywood Park and the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita. He is expected to be favored.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Storming Home, 5, finished first in the Arlington Million but was disqualified and placed fourth for causing interference near the finish.

Sulamani, the promoted winner of the Million, is another top contender along with Falbrav, a winner of four Group 1 races in England and France this year.

Sulamani was an impressive winner of the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 27. He won the $2 million Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad al Sheba in March.

Falbrav is not a certain starter for the Turf. He was also pre-entered for the Classic and trainer Luca Cumani said a decision on which race is chosen will be made closer to the race.

Balto Star, Johar, The Tin Man, and Toccet will be longer shots. All but Toccet have won graded stakes on turf this year. Johar and The Tin Man won stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year for trainer Richard Mandella.

Said Drysdale, "It's one of the best runnings of the Turf that has been put together."

Bright Sky, Century City, and Sarafan were pre-entered for the Turf, but are being pointed for other races. Bright Sky was pre-entered for the Filly and Mare Turf, while Century City and Sarafan are expected to start in the Mile.

High Chaparral is trying to become the first repeat winner of the Turf. Buck's Boy, the 1998 winner at Churchill Downs, has come the closest, finishing third in 1999 at Gulfstream Park.

This year, High Chaparral has won 2 of 3 starts - the Royal Whip Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes in Ireland - and finished third by 5 3/4 lengths to the retired Dalakhani in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France on Oct. 5.

A winner of 9 of 12 starts and $4,568,031, High Chaparral had his current campaign postponed for several months earlier this year because of a shoulder injury, trainer Aidan O'Brien said.

He thinks that High Chaparral was not ideally suited to the right-handed course at Longchamp. He was third in the same race in 2002 before winning the BC Turf.

"He's only been beaten three times in his life and all were going right handed," O'Brien said. "He may be better going left handed. We're putting it down to that."

O'Brien only committed High Chaparral to the BC Turf earlier this week.

"He's in good form from his last run," he said. "We're hoping that he runs a big race again."