10/18/2001 12:00AM

Steeplechase a parade of jump stars


The courage of Praise the Prince, who starts in Saturday's $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase at Far Hills, N.J., continues to amaze jockey Gus Brown. Already a winner at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park this year, Praise the Prince faces the toughest assignment of his 26-race career in the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.

"He's a model of consistency," said Brown. "He's definitely a fighter."

Run over two miles plus five furlongs, the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase is the richest jump race in the United States and has drawn nine entrants, six of whom are Grade 1 winners, including defending champion All Gong.

Trainer Bruce Miller starts All Gong and Yellowroad, the winner of the Joe Aitcheson Hurdle at Pimlico. The other runners include It's a Giggle (2001 New York Turf Writers Cup), Pinkie Swear (2000 Iroquois Stakes), Hokan (1998 New York Turf Writers Cup), and the stakes winners Lord Zada and Quel Senor.

It's a Giggle is seeking his fourth consecutive win, having won two other races at Saratoga this summer.

Praise the Prince has earned $208,242 for owner Augustin Stable and trainer Sanna Neilson, the most in the steeplechase division this year. During the spring, Praise the Prince won the Hard Scuffle Chase at Churchill Downs in May and the Meadowbrook at Belmont Park on June 7. At Saratoga, he won the A.P. Smithwick Hurdle, but was third in the New York Turf Writers' Handicap on Aug. 30.

"He gave up 18 pounds in the Turf Writers," Brown said. "On the backstretch, I thought he was in big trouble and he was only beaten two lengths. Other horses that might give me that feeling would have been beaten 20 lengths."

Praise the Prince has never run at Far Hills, which has a testing uphill finish. Experience over that course will help All Gong, who is seeking his first victory in 2001 following four second-place finishes.

"It's a serious hill," Miller said. "The course is usually soft and it takes its toll."

There is no betting on the six-race card, which is expected to draw crowd of 45,000 to the central New Jersey course. Earlier this week, the Far Hills Race Meeting Association pledged a portion of its receipts to the NTRA Charities-New York Heroes Fund, which aids the families of rescue workers and other victims from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

*Want to get a head start handicapping all eight Breeders' Cup races?