09/09/2004 12:00AM

Race may be too short for Doyen


Doyen, the best 1 1/2-mile horse in the world, puts his reputation on the line at Leopardstown on Saturday over what may be an inadequate distance of 1 1/4 miles in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes.

A track record-setting performance in the Hardwicke Stakes and an impressive victory in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, both going 1 1/2 miles at Ascot, combined to make Doyen the top-rated horse in Europe. But Doyen has not run at any distance other than 1 1/2 miles since his career debut when fifth in a 1 1/8-mile maiden race at Maisons-Laffitte on Oct. 2, 2002.

In the $1,218,600 Irish Champion, he will be up against Grey Swallow, the Dermot Weld-trained Irish Derby champ; Rakti, winner of the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes; and Azamour, the one-mile, Group 1 St. James's Palace Stakes winner, among others.

Any of them are capable of upsetting Doyen with their best effort, and overachiever Norse Dancer, a game second to Sulamani in the 1 5/16-mile Juddmonte International, cannot be overlooked. However, it is Powerscourt who may stand the best chance of beating the odds-on favorite.

Winner of the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at 1 5/16 miles at The Curragh in May, the Aidan O'Brien trainee had first place in the Arlington Million taken away from him by the stewards last month. Like Doyen, Powerscourt will feel at home on Leopardstown's firm ground.

Also at Leopardstown is a sterling renewal of the one-mile Matron Stakes for fillies and mares, a Group 1 race that could yield a number of candidates for either the Breeders' Cup Mile or the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

The $316,000 Matron is highlighted by the appearance of Soviet Song, who is coming off one-mile Group 1 victories in the Falmouth Stakes, in which she ended Attraction's undefeated record at eight, and the Sussex Stakes, in which she defeated males.

* Rule of Law and Let the Lion Roar meet again Saturday at Doncaster in the $714,000 St. Leger Stakes. Rule of Law finished ahead of Let the Lion Roar in both the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby, then defeated Let the Lion Roar by 2 1/2 lengths winning the Great Voltigeur.