10/12/2005 11:00PM

Oratorio shoots for Champion

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LONDON - Oratorio goes in search of his third consecutive Group 1 prize at 1 1/4 miles in Saturday's $680,000 Champion Stakes at Newmarket, a race that could still vault him into the Breeders' Cup Classic.

On the same card, Oratorio's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has entered both George Washington and Horatio Nelson in the $450,000 Dewhurst Stakes, but only one of them will run, with the state of the ground to be the deciding factor.

Heavy rain Wednesday night turned the ground soft at Newmarket, but with windy weather forecast for the next two days, the ground should be ideally good to soft for Oratorio, who has landed the Eclipse Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes in his last two outings.

Jockey Kieren Fallon, fresh from three Group 1 victories at Longchamp on Arc de Triomphe Day, will be aboard Oratorio, a son of Danehill. Victory would clinch Oratorio the European 10-furlong crown, and could serve as a prep for a trip to Belmont Park for the Classic.

Oratorio must turn back a host of severe challenges over Newmarket's 10-furlong straight course on Saturday.

The four-pronged French invasion is a strong one. In Pinson, trainer Jean-Claude Rouget will have his first runner in England, and he is a good one. A Halling 3-year-old, he has won four in a row, the last a six-length rout of the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville on Aug. 20. Freshened since then, Pinson appears to have the best French chance of upsetting the 5-2 Oratorio at a price.

Unplaced in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Pride is in with a chance if she can recapture the form that brought her victories in the Prix Foy and the Prix Jean Romanet. Prospect Park, the favorite in the 2004 Arc, is coming off a sharp score in Maison-Laffitte's Group 3 La Coupe, which like the Champion is run over a straight 10 furlongs. Touch of Land, fifth in the Arlington Million, could pose a threat off his second straight win in the Group 2 Prix Dollar.

Alexander Goldrun, though, cannot be ignored. Trained by Jim Bolger, she threw in a rare dull effort when she finished third in the Prix de l'Opera on Oct. 2. A four-time Group 1 winner, she could nail Oratorio late if she is back to her best on Saturday.

With the going expected to be on the soft side, O'Brien will probably go with Horatio Nelson in the Group 1, seven-furlong Dewhurst, Britain's premier juvenile event.