11/23/2006 12:00AM

Seeking the Dia has edge


Without a foreign challenger in the field, the $2.3 million Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo on Sunday lacks the international cachet of recent runnings but is nevertheless a highly competitive 1 5/16-mile Grade 1 contest.

The two leading Japanese dirt performers in training will be among the 18 runners, as Time Paradox and Seeking the Dia are expected to battle it out for the title. The winner of the 2004 Japan Cup Dirt, Time Paradox defeated last year's Dirt runner-up, Seeking the Dia, in the Grade 1 JBC Classic at Kawasaki on Nov. 3. It was the first victory for Time Paradox since his victory in the 2005 JBC Classic. But Seeking the Dia, a Storm Cat 5-year-old trained by Hideyuki Mori, is a more consistent type than Time Paradox. He was a heartbreaking nose second to the redoubtable Kane Hekili in last year's Dirt and is the choice to go one better at the expense of Time Paradox, who was fourth in this last year.

The JBC Mile winner Blue Concorde may not last the trip, but the improving Alondite, a 3-year-old son of Arc runner-up El Condor Pasa, stands an upset chance.

* Trainer Ed Dunlop said from Tokyo Racecourse that his two-time Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Ouija Board "is in fantastic condition" on the eve of her big race date with Deep Impact and Heart's Cry in Sunday's Japan Cup. British bookie Blue Square rates Deep Impact its 4-5 choice for the 1 1/2-mile Grade 1 turf event, then lists Heart's Cry at 9-2, Ouija Board 5-1, Meisho Samson 8-1, and Daiwa Major 16-1.