10/15/2003 11:00PM

Pair of keen rivals for Russian Rhythm


Russian Rhythm can further confirm the class of Europe's 3-year-old fillies if she can win the $667,000 Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

The winner of the 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes at a mile against her own sex and age group, the Michael Stoute-trained Russian Rhythm advanced to take the Group 1 Nassau Stakes against older fillies before her bold second to Falbrav in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, her first try against older colts.

The good-to-firm ground on Newmarket's straight 10-furlong course will suit Russian Rhythm perfectly, but she and rider Kieren Fallon have two fearsome rivals to overcome in Alamshar and Vespone.

Rerouted from the Canadian International to the Champion after the Aga Khan announced his sale to the Japan Racing Association for stud duties, Alamshar looked like a potential world-beater when he defeated subsequent Arc winner Dalakhani in the Irish Derby and then slammed Sulamani in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

Alamshar was only fourth behind High Chaparral, Falbrav, and Islington in the 1 1/4-mile Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 6, and while conventional wisdom has it that he is better at 12 furlongs than 10, his chances in what will be his farewell to racing cannot be discounted. Johnny Murtagh will have the task of finding Alamshar's way through a field of 13.

Vespone has become Europe's forgotten horse. After running off three straight victories for trainer Nicolas Clement in the Group 3 Prix La Force, the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, and the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, the 3-year-old Vespone was bought by Godolphin, which has rested him since the Grand Prix on June 22.

Godolphin has a knack for having horses ready for big races off long layoffs, but Vespone may need this one before a possible try at the Hong Kong Cup on Dec. 14.

Danish invader Dano-Mast has an upset chance, but Nayef and Rakti, the first two in the Prince of Wales's Stakes in June, look overmatched.

In the Group 1, $416,000 Dewhurst Stakes for 2-year-olds, Three Valleys finds himself in a position to nail down European juvenile honors. The eight-length winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, Three Valleys was under the weather when he finished third to One Cool Cat in the Phoenix Stakes.

Three Valleys, however, bounced back for trainer Roger Charlton when he took the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at six furlongs Oct. 3 and will have no trouble with the extra furlong of the Dewhurst. Middle Park runner-up Balmont and Royal Lodge Stakes winner Snow Ridge are dangers, as is the undefeated pair Antonius Pius and Imperial Stride, but Three Valleys may have most to fear from Duke of Venice, who was supplemented to the Dewhurst after a 13-length maiden score at Sandown on Sept. 17.