04/22/2004 12:00AM

Sarafan's task not an easy one


Sarafan's difficult assignment in Sunday's $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin was not made any easier when he drew post 13 in a field of 14 international runners.

A 7-year-old Lear Fan gelding, Sarafan was beaten 6 1/4 lengths into 10th in the Dubai Duty Free on March 27. With the dead-heat winners of that race, Paolini and Right Approach, back for Sunday's race, Sarafan's chances of victory in this 1 1/4-mile Group 1 contest look slim.

Unless, of course, he can recapture the luster that saw him finish a nose second to Falbrav in the 2002 Japan Cup and a sharp fourth in the 2002 Hong Kong Cup. His foreign form since then, however, has been spotty. He was 17th in last November's Japan Cup, albeit on unsuitable ground. And last December he was ordered scratched by the stewards from the Hong Kong Mile for testing positive for lingering traces of a banned substance.

"We would have liked to have drawn tighter but what can you do," said John O'Donoghue, assistant to trainer Neil Drysdale, of Sarafan's post position. "At least he's a seasoned traveler and he loves it here in Hong Kong."

Drysdale has named Andreas Suborics to ride. The Austrian jockey won this race aboard Silvano in 2001 and was second aboard Paolini in the 2002 Hong Kong Cup.

Andreas Wohler will again give Eddy Pedroza a leg up on Paolini, who was second in this race last year. But Paolini has drawn widest of all in 14.

Right Approach, on the other hand, has drawn perfectly in post 3 for trainer Mike de Kock, while British invader Scott's View, a surprise third in the Dubai Sheema Classic, should not be overlooked.

The one they all have to fear, however, is Lucky Owners.

Trained locally by Tony Cruz, Lucky Owners won in an international field in the Hong Kong Mile on Dec. 15 and recently took the Hong Kong Derby over the QEII course and distance. He should vie for favoritism with Paolini.

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes will be televised live by TVG, with post time at 4:30 a.m. Eastern on Sunday.

* On the same card, the redoubtable sprinter Silent Witness should extend his unbeaten record to 11 in the $577,000 Chairman's Sprint Prize.

* At Longchamp in France, Westerner continued his winning ways Thursday with a two-length tally over Forestier as the even money favorite in the 1 15/16-mile Group 3 Prix de Barbeville.