10/07/2004 12:00AM

Open race makes Denon a favorite

Denon starts as the favorite in the Grade 3 Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes on Saturday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A trainer with a useful turf marathoner might have had grand aspirations when he saw what was being offered on opening weekend at Keeneland. The Grade 3 Sycamore Breeders' Cup Stakes, a $150,000 race at 1 1/2 miles on grass, looked like a great fit for a horse in that niche.

Then Bobby Frankel, as he often does, had to go and ruin it for everybody else.

Frankel has entered , a 6-year-old with earnings of more than $1.7 million and an enviable record that figures to make him a solid favorite Saturday in the 10th running of the Sycamore BC. Although Denon has not raced since finishing 11th in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup in mid-December, the horse has been working steadily since early June.

"I think he's ready to go," Frankel said Thursday from New York, where he will be Saturday to run Sightseek in the Beldame at Belmont. "I gave him a few months after Hong Kong. He had some puffy ankles and I wanted to take care of that, get him back healthy."

Denon is owned by Fusao Sekiguchi, the Japanese businessman who won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with Fusaichi Pegasus. Before finishing poorly in the Japan Cup and Hong Kong Cup to end his 2003 campaign, Denon was one of the best grass horses in North America, consistently posting triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures while earning over $1.3 million the last two years.

Frankel said he thought about major races in New York as a comeback spot for Denon, "but I wanted something a little easier, and this came up." He said the horse may run next in Southern California.

Among the most accomplished of eight opponents for Denon are Rochester, an earner of more than $955,000; On the Course, winner of an overnight grass marathon at Arlington Park in his last start; and Mustanfar, a 3-year-old facing older stakes rivals for the first time.

The Sycamore is the fifth of 10 races and precedes the other two Saturday features, the Shadwell Mile and Breeders' Futurity.