10/08/2002 11:00PM

It's a Giggle heads BC Chase


Two former Breeders' Cup winners and a former Eclipse Award winner were among 10 hurdlers pre-entered on Wednesday in the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase, to be held at the Far Hills Races in Far Hills, Md., on Oct. 19. There is no betting on the race.

The two previous Breeders' Cup steeplechase winners, Quel Senor (2001) and All Gong (2000), join Flat Top, the 1998 Eclipse Award-winning steeplechaser, in the entries. The three horses, who have struggled to regain their top form this year, will likely face a strong challenge from It's a Giggle, the division leader going into the race.

Final entries for the 13-jump race will be taken Oct. 15.

It's a Giggle was fencing flawlessly this season before he was pulled up as the 6-5 favorite on soft turf in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga on Aug. 29. Before that, It's a Giggle won the Grade 1 Royal Chase at Keeneland and the listed A. P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap at Saratoga.

In preparation for the BC Steeplechase, trainer Jonathan Sheppard shipped It's a Giggle to Middleburg in Virginia last Saturday for a flat race on the turf at 1 1/4 miles. It's a Giggle won "rather easily," Sheppard said.

Sheppard, the sport's all-time leading trainer, has also pre-entered Double Leaf. Double Leaf made up ground late in the Turf Writers to finish second, but 7 1/4 lengths behind the winner, Zabenz.

Sheppard said Wednesday that both of his entries will run on firm ground, but It's a Giggle will be scratched if the course is soft.

Zabenz, a New Zealand-bred, is also pre-entered. He could cement his chances for the Eclipse Award, owing to his dominating performance in the Turf Writers.

All Gong and Quel Senor have had quiet years. All Gong most recently ran third in the Legacy Chase on Sept. 28, while Quel Senor won a training flat race on Sept. 29. Flat Top has three third-place finishes in three Grade 1 stakes this year.