03/23/2006 12:00AM

Proud Tower Too speed of the speed

Proud Tower Too will be tough to catch in the Golden Shaheen.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The equine drag race that is Saturday's $2 million at Nad Al Sheba racecourse has become an American showcase.

Five of the last six winners are from the United States, and this year's running includes five American invaders expected to dominate the race, which is at about six furlongs on a straightaway course.

The blazing speed of Proud Tower Too, who has won three stakes in the last four months, will put him near the front, but he will be closely pursued by Gaff, the winner of the Mr. Prospector Handicap at Gulfstream Park in January; Thor's Echo, who has placed behind Proud Tower Too twice in recent starts; Jet West, the winner of the California Cup Sprint last November; and Captain Squire, who was third in the 2003 Golden Shaheen.

Proud Tower Too, 4, used his speed to win the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and the Sensational Star Handicap at the current Santa Anita meeting.

"There's no strategy; we go to the front and improve our position," said Sal Gonzalez, trainer of Proud Tower Too. "He's staying on top of his game. We've been lucky."

Proud Tower Too starts from post 2.

Gaff, who has won his last three starts, drew post 9, with Jet West one gate to his outside. Thor's Echo breaks from post 12, one spot to the inside of Captain Squire.

Captain Squire, who can lead or stalk the pace, was sixth in the Sunshine Millions Turf at about 1 1/8 miles on turf at Gulfstream Park in his last start. In December, Captain Squire, 7, finished third in the Vernon Underwood Stakes, a sprint, at Hollywood Park and was second in a one-mile turf race at Santa Anita.

"There aren't too many sprinters coming off two route turf races," said Captain Squire's trainer, Jeff Mullins. "I think it gives us a bigger gas tank."

Gaff is the starter that Mullins respects most. "I think he's the horse to beat," he said. "[But] on a straight, you never know."

Jet West has placed in two graded sprint stakes at Santa Anita this year. "I think we match up well with the horses that come from California," said trainer Ted West.

There are 10 other horses in the race. Conroy, 8, is making his fifth consecutive appearance in the Golden Shaheen. His best result was a third in 2004.

Tropical Star finished second to the U.S. sprinter Saratoga County in the 2005 Golden Shaheen and has won two sprint stakes in Dubai this year.

Godolphin Mile: U.S. overmatched

There are two American-based runners among 10 entrants in the $1 million on dirt - Island Fashion and Shamoan. They seem overmatched against a strong group of local horses and Europeans.

Island Fashion, 6, has won 6 of 27 starts and $1,965,970, but is winless since the 2004 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, a span of 12 races. She was third in the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in December in her last start. The Godolphin Mile is her first race for trainer Julio Canani.

Shamoan won the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows last July, but has lost his last four starts.

Making only his second start on dirt in the Mile is Court Masterpiece, the winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret, a turf sprint, in France last October. He won a stakes at a mile on turf last year in England.

Of the locals, Lundy's Liability is a familiar name to U.S. racing fans. His last win came in the 2005 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita, when trained by Bobby Frankel. Lundy's Liability has made three starts for Michael de Kock here this year, with a third in January his best result.

Marbush won a local prep at about a mile on March 2 by 7 1/2 lengths.