11/22/2002 12:00AM

Home team vs. invaders in Japan Cup

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Symboli Kris S is poised to land a fifth consecutive Japan Cup for the home side at Nakayama on Sunday when Sarafan will be only one of a handful of foreign invaders with a chance for an upset.

A Kentucky-bred son of Kris S., Symboli Kris S has beaten two Japan Cup rivals in his last two starts when taking the Grade 2 Kobe Shimbun Hai from No Reason and the Grade 1 Autumn Tenno Sho from Narita Top Road. A length second to the absent Tanino Gimlet in the Japanese Derby in May, he appears to be at the peak of his powers and is a deserving favorite for trainer Kazuo Fujisawara, who has gained the services of French ace Olivier Peslier.

Sarafan and Corey Nakatani will be able to keep a close eye on the favorite as they have drawn just outside Symboli Kris S in post eight. Ever consistent, Sarafan's lone try at this year's Japan Cup distance of 1 3/8 miles came when he was a close third to With Anticipation and Denon in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth. The Neil Drysdale-trained son of Lear Fan would probably have to improve a bit off that effort to pose a valid threat in what is always a highly competitive contest.

The challenge from Europe is five-handed with Golan and Bright Sky the biggest dangers. This has always been Golan's ultimate objective and Michael Stoute is sure to have him ready off a lackluster effort in the Breeders' Cup Turf when the ground didn't suit him. That is looking very much like a prep for the Japan Cup in which the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes was sixth last year.

Bright Sky used a rousing 4-length score in the Prix de l'Opera to prepare for this. The French Oaks winner has been working well since arriving in Japan and could join Mairzy Doates, Stanerra and Horlicks as distaff winners of a race which, at $3.9 million, is the world's most valuable turf event. Thierry Thulliez picks up the mount on the Wildenstein-owned filly as regular rider Dominique Boeuf was denied entry into Japan due to a previous drug possession conviction.

Irresistible Jewel's distant second behind Bright Sky in the Opera does not bode well in this much tougher company, but Storming Home must have a chance off his victory in the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes. The Italian entry Falbrav, the mount of Frankie Dettori, is a multiple Group 1 winner at home but was exposed when a dull ninth in the Arc.

The aforementioned Narita Top Road, third in last year's race, could pose the biggest problem for Symboli Kris S, but even with Yutaka Take on board defending champ Jungle Pocket looks like an underlay at 5-1 as he has been out of action since finishing second to Arc flop Manhattan Cafe in the Spring Tenno Sho on April 28.

It having become increasingly difficult to beat the Japanese on their home turf, Symboli Kris S should add his name to those of El Condor Pasa, Special Week, T.M. Opera O and Jungle Pocket to make it five straight for Japan.

THE FIELD

JAPAN CUP

Purse: $3.9 million; 1 3/8 miles (Turf); Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYODDS

1FalbravL Dettori30-1

2IndigenousE Saint-Martin50-1

3GolanK Fallon6-1

4Irresistible JewelP J Smullen30-1

5American BossT Eda50-1

6Agnes FlightH Goto100-1

7Symboli Kris SO Peslier5-2

8SarafanC Nakatani15-1

9No ReasonM Ebina12-1

10Jungle PocketY Take5-1

11T.M. OceanM Honda30-1

12Bright SkyT Thulliez8-1

13Narita Top RoadH Shii8-1

14Storming HomeM Hills12-1

15MagnatenY Okabe20-1

16Air ShakurK Tanaka20-1

Odds by Alan Shuback

Post time: Sunday, 1:25am (EST)