08/28/2003 11:00PM

Sulamani takes unique tack for BC Turf

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Europeans rarely start thinking about the Breeders' Cup until after Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend, but already we have an idea of some of the leading foreign invaders who may be lining up for the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

The announcement that Sulamani will remain in America to prepare for the Breeders' Cup Turf with a run in the Turf Classic at Belmont Sept. 27 has flabbergasted some European observers. Godolphin's decision means that it very likely will not have a runner in the Arc, a race they have won the last two years, with Marienbard and Sakhee.

But as Godolphin's Simon Crisford pointed out on Wednesday, the Turf Classic has been Sulamani's goal since March, when he won the Dubai Sheema Classic. At the same time, it should be noted that there is a plethora of top-class middle distance horses in Europe this year. By sending Sulamani to America in midsummer, Godolphin avoids clashes with the likes of Alamshar and Ange Gabriel, the ones that beat him in the King George and Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.

Irish Champion comes up a beauty

Saturday's Irish Champion Stakes over 1 1/4 miles at Leopardstown is shaping up, as usual, as a definitive race. In 1997 Pilsudski won it en route to victories in the Champion at Newmarket and Japan Cup. The next year, Swain followed victory in it with an unlucky third in the Breeders' Cup Classic. In 1999 Daylami preceded his Breeders' Cup Turf victory with a win at Leopardstown. In the 2000 Irish Champion, Giant's Causeway scored his fifth consecutive Group 1 victory, before his heartbreaking defeat in the BC Classic. And in 2001, Fantastic Light outgamed Galileo in a memorable Irish Champion duel before to his victory in the BC Turf.

This year's Irish Champion lineup includes Irish Derby and King George winner Alamshar, defending Breeders' Cup Turf champ High Chaparral, Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad, and, possibly, Falbrav, who might be the best 10-furlong horse in the world.

Winner of the Eclipse Stakes and the Juddmonte International, Falbrav is an intended Breeders' Cup Turf runner. His ultimate goal will be the 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup, but trainer Luca Cumani realizes that sending even an accomplished horse like Falbrav to the BC Turf off a nine-week layoff is a risky proposition.

If the powerful Falbrav goes in the Irish Champion, he will be difficult to beat. Alamshar and High Chaparral are both 1 1/2-mile horses at heart, while Moon Ballad much prefers dirt. If all four go, the Irish Champion could produce at least three Breeders' Cup runners. Moon Ballad's main goal has always been the BC Classic, while Falbrav is most likely for the Turf, as is High Chaparral after a run in the Arc.

The Aga Khan won't decide about the Breeders' Cup until after the Arc on Oct. 5. He wants to keep Alamshar and his French Derby winner Dalakhani apart. Dalakhani looks like his Arc runner, but don't be surprised if neither shows up at Santa Anita, as the Aga is loath to send 3-year-olds to the Breeders' Cup.

Trainer Michael Stoute will not send Islington to Santa Anita for the BC Turf or the Filly and Mare Turf. He has also said that it would be "unfair" to send his fine 1000 Guineas winner Russian Rhythm to Santa Anita for the BC Mile.

Oasis Dream preps in Haydock Sprint Saturday

That is not the feeling of John Gosden, who has made the bold decision to send ace sprinter Oasis Dream to the Mile. An outstanding winner of both the July Cup and the Nunthorpe Stakes, Oasis Dream is the best European sprinter since Dayjur. An impressive-looking colt with strong withers, a perfect box-like shape and a bull-like neck to ease the inflow of air, he should have no trouble with left-hand turns as he is a compact, athletic horse. Whether he can stay a mile is another question. His Mile prep will come in the straight six-furlong Haydock Park Sprint Cup on Saturday.

There is no doubt that Six Perfections and Domedriver can stay a mile. Only a head separated them in the Prix Jacques le Marois, but as they are both owned by the Niarchos Family, trainer Pascal Bary wants to keep them separated for the time being. Probably only one of them will go in the Mile, and we will not know which one until after the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and the Prix de la Foret.

Refuse to Bend, winner of the 2000 Guineas and, most recently, the Desmond Stakes, is probable for the Mile, but Queen Anne Stakes winner Dubai Destination flopped in the Marois and will be pointed to the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes after a run in the Queen Elizabeth II.

Santa Anita has not been particularly kind to European Breeders' Cup invaders. Only BC Classic longshot winner Arcangues and Mile winner Last Tycoon have won there in 30 tries. Their chances in the Turf and the Mile look good this time around. Meanwhile, do not overlook Moon Ballad in the Classic. He is 10 lengths better on dirt than turf, and has merely been marking time for his return to dirt.