10/07/2003 11:00PM

Special Ring still leads U.S. hopefuls, but strong group from Europe expected


The major preps run last weekend for the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 did little to clarify the rankings of the North American contenders.

Special Ring remains the most well-regarded runner based in the United States, but he was only fourth in Sunday's Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita behind Designed for Luck, Sarafan, and Century City, all BC Mile hopefuls.

Major races at Belmont Park and Keeneland Saturday produced surprise results.

At Belmont Park, Freefourinternet pulled an upset in the Kelso Breeders' Cup Mile and remains a candidate for the BC Mile, according to trainer Joan Scott.

From Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, the first four finishers - Perfect Soul, Honor in War, Touch of the Blues, and Soaring Free - are expected for the BC Mile. Other potential North American starters are Irish Warrior, Peace Rules, and Senor Swinger.

The North American team will be challenged by a strong contingent of Europeans. Oasis Dream, the winner of the two major sprints in England this year, will make the final start of his career in the Mile before being retired to stud. He is part of a raiding party that will include Refuse to Bend, Six Perfections, and Statue of Liberty.

The Mile annually draws a large field, and next week's pre-entries may exceed the maximum of 14.

Oasis Dream is listed as the 9-2 favorite with English bookmakers William Hill, closely followed by Special Ring (6-1), Six Perfections (13-2), and Designed for Luck (8-1).

Six Perfections, a 3-year-old, has not started since winning the Prix Jacques Le Marois over a mile at Deauville, France, on Aug. 17. Earlier this year, she was second in the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, encountering trouble in both races.

Trained by Pascal Bary in Chantilly, France, Six Perfections will have a workout this weekend that will determine whether she is sent to California.

"She's definitely a possibility, and we want to see how she is," said Alan Cooper, the racing manager for the Niarchos Family, owner of Six Perfections.

Cooper said the 1 3/8-mile Filly and Mare Turf is not under consideration. "We don't think we want to go farther than a mile," Cooper said.

Irish Warrior finished third in the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita on Sept. 28. The race was won by Storming Home, a top candidate for the BC Turf. In August at Del Mar, Irish Warrior won the Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf.

Last week, jockey Alex Solis recommended to trainer Wally Dollase that Irish Warrior be considered for the Mile. Dollase thinks Irish Warrior's stretch run could make him a contender.