09/23/2003 11:00PM

Special Ring and Oasis Dream stand out, but last preps will sort out the field


Trainer Julio Canani won the Breeders' Cup Mile at Gulfstream Park in 1999 with Silic and at Belmont Park in 2001 with Val Royal. This year, Canani does not even have to leave home to start his current Mile hope, Special Ring.

Special Ring this season has displayed the form needed to join those two - and will need all that ability at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

After finishing second in his 2003 debut, the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park in late May, Special Ring finished a game second to Candy Ride in the American Handicap on July 4. Special Ring then set a course record of 1:45.87 for 1 1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on July 27 with a five-length win.

Owned by Prestonwood Farms, Special Ring, 6, will have his final prep for the Mile in the $300,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile Oct. 5 over the same course and distance as the Oct. 25 race. Canani chose that race over the Atto Mile at Woodbine on Sept. 14.

"He's doing everything we want him to do," Canani said. "The horse is doing great."

With a month remaining to the race, the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Mile is expected to draw a field from throughout North America and Europe.

Special Ring tops the list of American candidates, which includes Peace Rules and Touch of the Blues.

The top European contenders are Dubai Destination, Refuse to Bend, Oasis Dream, and Six Perfections.

The Mile lacks a clear favorite. In the parimutuel Breeders' Cup future bet last weekend, the field was listed as the 5-1 favorite, followed by Special Ring and Oasis Dream at 7-1 and Peace Rules at 9-1. Domedriver, the defending champion, who is winless in five starts this year, was virtually ignored at 30-1.

In England, the Coral bookmaking firm lists Oasis Dream as the 5-1 favorite, followed by Special Ring at 6-1 and Six Perfections, Domedriver, and Peace Rules, all at 8-1.

Major stakes over the next two weeks will sort out the probables.

At Ascot, England, on Saturday, Dubai Destination starts in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile.

The three major preps in this country are on Oct. 4-5.

Touch of the Blues, the winner of the Atto Mile, will have his final prep in the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 4, facing Atto runner-up Soaring Free.

Trademark, the winner of the Bernard Baruch and Fourstardave handicaps at Saratoga, will start in the Shadwell Mile or the $350,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

He warned that the Breeders' Cup Mile is far from a certainty, because Trademark would have to be supplemented for $300,000. "It's a bad gamble," McLaughlin said.

Peace Rules, unraced since finishing second in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23, will be trained up to the Mile, according to trainer Bobby Frankel.