02/20/2009 1:00AM

Kane Hekili can earn World Cup bid

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Comeback kid Kane Hekili goes in search of his fourth victory in a row at Tokyo on Sunday when he meets Vermilion and Casino Drive in the $1.95 million February Stakes, Japan's key prep for the Dubai World Cup.

The Katsuhiko Sumii-trained winner of the 2005 Japan Cup Dirt, Kane Hekili followed that victory with a win in the 2006 February Stakes before a fourth-place finish behind Electrocutionist in the Dubai World Cup. Sidelined from June 28, 2006 to Nov. 8, 2008, he landed a second $2.6 million Japan Cup Dirt in his second start back off an injury-induced layoff, then proceeded to win the $1.5 million Tokyo Daishoten and, most recently on Jan. 28, the $1.1 million Kawasaki Kinen. A victory on Sunday would punch his ticket to Dubai, although he has yet to be nominated to the world's richest race.

The mile of the Grade 1 February is a cutback of 2 1/2 furlongs from the Kawasaki Kinen but is within Kane Hekili's range. Once again, he will have Frenchman Christophe Lemaire aboard. A 7-year-old son of Fuji Kiseki, he beat last year's February winner, Vermilion, into third in the Japan Cup Dirt and took his measure by a neck in the Tokyo Daishoten.

Casino Drive, winner of last year's Peter Pan at Belmont Park, was 2 3/4 lengths sixth in the Japan Cup Dirt, but bounced back to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths in the slop at Nakayama on Jan. 24. He has, however, drawn wide in post 14, while Kane Hekili will break from post 2, and Vermilion from 9 with Yutaka Take on board.

* The two biggest names in Hong Kong racing will be on display at Sha Tin on Sunday. Viva Pataca defends his title against a weak field in the 1 1/4-mile, $1 million Hong Kong Gold Cup, while Sacred Kingdom seeks a second straight win in the six-furlong, $580,000 Chairman's Sprint Prize against Enthused, the Hong Kong Sprint winner who beat him into fourth three weeks ago in the five-furlong Centenary Sprint Cup.