12/07/2005 1:00AM

Prado seventh in jock challenge


German ace Andrasch Starke captured his second Cathay Pacific International Jockeys Championship at Happy Valley in Hong Kong on Wednesday night as Edgar Prado finished seventh in the 12-rider, three-race contest.

After finishing second aboard Right Choice and third on Desert Strike in the first two legs, Starke clinched the title with a winning ride on the 8-1 shot Sunbell in the final leg, in which Prado made his best showing with a third aboard Konrad the Great. Starke, who took home a modest first prize of $25,780, had previously won the Hong Kong challenge in 2000.

Howard Cheng and Danny Whyte, the winners of the first two legs of the challenge, finished tied for second.

Cerin takes two good shots

No American horse has won any of the four races on the Hong Kong International Raceday card since the Jimmy Picou-trained Val's Prince captured the Hong Kong Cup in 1997.

Sunday at Sha Tin, Vladimir Cerin will try to end the American schneid with a pair of in-form runners from Santa Anita: Willow O Wisp in the 1 1/4-mile $2.3 million Hong Kong Cup and Designed for Luck in the $1.8 million Hong Kong Mile.

The winner of his last three starts in the Del Mar Derby, the La Jolla Handicap, and the Cinema Handicap, Willow O Wisp, who has picked up the services of top international jock Kieren Fallon, will be fitted with earplugs for the first time when he faces older horses for the first time in his career.

"They are not severe, just some foam padding," explained Cerin. "But it's important, especially as he has never raced in front of a crowd as big as the one he will see on Sunday. He will get excited, that's for sure."

The Hong Kong Jockey Club, which only sanctioned the use of earplugs only last week, is expecting as many as 75,000 people to fill the stands at Sha Tin on Sunday, when Cerin will also saddle his two-time Grade 1 winner Designed for Luck in the Mile. Sidelined for 16 months because of a suspensory problem after having won the Shoemaker Mile on May 31, 2004, Designed for Luck returned to the races on Oct. 8 with a game second to Singletary in the Oak Tree Mile.

"I think he is now the soundest he has been in years," Cerin said.

Prado will be aboard the 8-year-old Designed for Luck for the first time.

Leading trainer accepts suspension

Defending two-time UAE champion trainer Mazin Al Kurdi has decided not to appeal the four-month suspension he received from Emirates Racing Association stewards when four of his winners this season tested positive for the banned steroid boldenone.

Kurdi has admitted his error but said he feels appealing to the same people who banned him would be fruitless. Satish Seemar has taken in some of the 120 horses trained by Kurdi, who plans to train in Europe this spring for Sheikh Mohammed's son, Rashid Al Maktoum.