11/28/2003 1:00AM

Johar attempts BC-Japan Cup double


Johar faces a tall order at Tokyo Racecourse on Sunday as he attempts to become the first horse to win both the Breeders' Cup Turf and the Japan Cup in the same year.

Tokyo's $4.3 million showcase has drawn a powerful field of 18 runners from five different counties. In addition to Johar, the 1 1/2-mile Grade 1 contest has attracted a second Breeders' Cup winner in Filly & Mare Turf champ Islington, two-time Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Ange Gabriel, Cox Plate victor Fields Of Omagh, Japanese Derby winner Neo Universe, as well as the second and third-place finishers in last year's renewal, Sarafan and Symboli Kris S.

Although no American-trained horse has taken Japan's premier event since Golden Pheasant in 1991, a case can be made in Johar's behalf. His trainer Dick Mandella has had four previous Japan Cup runners, Kotashaan coming closest when second to Legacy World in 1993. More importantly, the Gone West 4-year-old will be running for just the fifth time this year and, as he showed in the BC Turf when deadheating with High Chaparral, his late running style will stand him in good stead through Tokyo's 2-1/2-furlong stretch.

Johar and Alex Solis will not be inconvenienced by their number 13 draw, but they may be faced with an unusually slow pace up front. Moreover, dangers lurk everywhere, not least in Sarafan, last year's nose runner-up to Falbrav when the race was run over 1 3/8 miles at Nakayama.

Scratched on the morning of the Breeders' Cup Mile, the Neil Drysdale trainee prepped for this with a victory in a 1 1/8-mile allowance at Hollywood on Nov. 13. However, this is his first time going twelve furlongs and Victor Espinoza will have to find a way home from his unfortunate draw in 16.

The other two Americans are longshots. Denon was beaten by lesser in both the Man o' War and the Sword Dancer, while Slew Valley, winless since taking an optional allowance at Delaware Park in June, 2001, is in over his head.

Ange Gabriel, who with the fillies Ana Marie and Tigertail make up a trio of French invaders, is a perfect fit for a left-handed mile and a half on firm ground. The Eric Libaud-trained son of Kaldounevees hated the sticky going at Longchamp when ninth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The winner of last December's 1 1/2-mile Group 1 Hong Kong Vase, Ange Gabriel is no stranger to racing in the Far East and is the selection with Thierry Jarnet in the saddle.

But he will have to be at his very best to turn back the favorite, Symboli Kris S. Just a neck third in last year's Japan Cup, the Kris S. 4-year-old has picked up the services of French ace Olivier Peslier and runs off an unprecedented second successive victory in the 1 1/4-mile Autumn Tenno Sho.

Neo Universe will be popular with the betting public, but this is the Sunday Silence colt's first try against older horses. Fields Of Omagh is in for the race of his life, while the in-form Islington has never won against colts.

A victory by either Johar or Fields Of Omagh would be bring them a bonus of $1 million on top of the first prize of $2.6 million. Those are just two more reasons to excite an expected crowd of at least 110,000 at the newly renovated Tokyo Racecourse.


Japan Cup

Purse: $4.3 million; 1 1/2 miles (Turf); Grade 1

1 Tap Dance City 126 T Sato 12-1
2 Denon 126 C Nakatani 30-1
3 Sakura President 121 Y Take 25-1
4 Fields Of Omagh 126 S King 25-1
5 Symbolis Kris S 126 O Peslier 3-1
6 Ana Marie 121 C-P Lemaire 50-1
7 Tsurumaru Boy 126 N Yokoyama 20-1
8 Neo Universe 121 M Demuro 5-1
9 Ange Gabriel 126 T Jarnet 6-1
10 That's The Plenty 121 K Ando 15-1
11 Active Bio 126 K Take 50-1
12 Derby Regno 126 H Miyuki 50-1
13 Johar 126 A Solis 8-1
14 Islington 121 K Fallon 8-1
15 Slew Valley 126 J Chavez 100-1
16 Sarafan 126 V Espinoza 15-1
17 Tigertail 121 T Gillet 50-1
18 Sunrise Pegasus 126 Y Shibata 50-1
Odds by Alan Shuback
Post time: Sunday, 1:20am (EST)