11/22/2001 12:00AM

Lido Palace America's best bet in $2M race


Lido Palace carries the pride of American dirt racing to Tokyo Racecourse on Saturday where he will go after his third Grade 1 victory in succession in the 1 5/16-mile $2 million Japan Cup Dirt.

Lido Palace, who was Chile's champion 3-year-old, finished second in a pair of main track Grade 2's in his first two starts in the U.S. for Bobby Frankel, then hit his best stride when taking the Whitney Handicap and Woodward, in which he beat repeat Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow by 1 1/2 lengths.

His owners at Amerman Racing declined to supplement Lido Palace to the Classic for $800,000, so he has been pointed to this race for nearly two months and will be ridden by Jerry Bailey.

Niall O'Callaghan, trainer of distant Jockey Club Gold Cup runner-up Generous Rosi, conceded that he is merely racing for second. A Grade 3 winner, Generous Rosi will probably try to take them all the way under new rider Gary Stevens.

The third American entrant, Dig For It, appears overmatched, as do a pair of European invaders, Aeskulap and King of Tara, both of whom will be making their dirt debuts.

Some of the Japanese defenders could prove troublesome for Lido Palace.

Kurofune, winner of the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup on turf in May, is by French Deputy, and he took his dirt debut by nine lengths in a one mile Grade 3 four weeks ago. Preeminence, an Afleet 4-year-old, has won four of his last five on dirt including a pair of Grade 3's going a mile. Regular Member took the Grade 1 JBC Classic last time at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

The biggest danger of all is defending champ Wing Arrow. Trained by Katsumi Minai, Wing Arrow won the Grade 1 Breeders' Gold Cup over 1 1/2 miles on dirt in August. Though he was only fifth behind Agnes Digital in the Mile Championship on turf last time, that was merely a warmup for this race. If there is anyone in the 16-runner field that can take the measure of Lido Palace, it is probably Wing Arrow, who will have the huge Japanese crowd urging him on.