11/18/2002 1:00AM

Sarafan and Reba's Gold settle in


Sarafan and Reba's Gold have settled into pre-Japan Cup mode at the Shiroi, Japan, quarantine center in preparation for their big race assignments this weekend at Nakayama Racecourse, while early arrival Abreeze is already at Nakayama.

The Neil Drysdale-trained Sarafan will be tackling a formidable group of international stars in Sunday's $3.95 million Japan Cup, which has been shortened from 1 1/2 miles to 1 3/8 miles on the turf. The race is being run at Nakayama this year because the grandstand at Tokyo Racecourse is being renovated.

A 5-year-old son of Lear Fan, Sarafan arrived in Japan last Thursday but has only cantered since then at Shiroi.

"He was still a little tired when he arrived, so we've only worked him lightly," said exercise rider Robert Guest. "He's settled down nicely and is looking better every time I ride him. We'll start regular training on Thursday after we get to Nakayama."

Among Sarafan's rivals on Sunday will be the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes winner, Golan, a Michael Stoute trainee who looked uncomfortable on the yielding turf when he was a dull sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Also running is French Oaks winner Bright Sky, who looked sharp winning the Prix de l'Opera by four lengths last time out at Longchamp.

The Barry Hills-trained Champion Stakes winner Storming Home is already at Nakayama, where the undulating right-handed course will give the Japan Cup a new look this year.

Fresh from his Hollywood Park victory in the Steinlen Handicap Nov. 10, Reba's Gold arrived in Japan on the same flight as Sarafan. A 5-year-old son of Slew o' Gold, Reba's Gold will go in the $2.05 million Japan Cup Dirt on Saturday for trainer Dan Hendricks, as will the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Abreeze, an early arrival at Shiroi who has been at Nakayama since Thursday.

Assistant Neal McLaughlin has been pleased with the progress of Abreeze, and said that Abreeze, a 7-year-old son of Danzig, was scheduled for a four-furlong work Tuesday.

The Grade 1 Japan Cup Dirt, the world's third most valuable dirt race, will be run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles this year, down from its usual 1 5/16 miles at Tokyo. Lying in wait for the Americans is a horse with the credentials to emulate Kurofune, last year's overwhelming seven-length winner.

Gold Allure, a Sunday Silence 3-year-old, is a half-brother to To the Victory, the filly who was second behind Captain Steve in the 2001 Dubai World Cup. Unbeaten in four dirt tries in Japan, Gold Allure has won the Japan Dirt Derby and the Derby Grand Prix on dirt in his last two starts by a combined 17 lengths.