11/14/2008 1:00AM

Three Americans target Japan Cup Dirt


Three American horses have accepted invitations to run in the reconfigured $2.8 million Japan Cup Dirt on Dec. 7, the Japan Racing Association announced on Friday. Tin Cup Chalice will be joined by Mast Track and Frost Giant in making the trip to Hanshin Racetrack near Osaka for what will be the world's second-richest race run on dirt this year, after the Dubai World Cup.

Trained by Michael Lecesse, Tin Cup Chalice is the New York-bred winner of the Indiana Derby, and he has won 8 of his 9 starts. Hollywood Gold Cup winner Mast Track was last seen finishing fifth for trainer Bobby Frankel in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface. Frost Giant, trained by Rick Dutrow, scored a 40-1 upset in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont in June but has had only one start since then, a ninth-place finish on turf in Woodbine's Northern Dancer Stakes.

The Japan Cup Dirt was formerly run at 1 5/16 miles over the left-handed Tokyo course on the day before the Japan Cup, a race that will be run this year on Nov. 30. But the Japan Cup Dirt was switched to Hanshin this year on the Sunday after the Japan Cup - and, more important, the distance of the race has been cut to 1 1/8 miles in an effort to attract more American runners. At Hanshin, however, the race will be run on a right-handed course with a sharp undulation on the first turn.

Two other North American horses will also compete in Japan later this month. The Ian Black-trained Rahy's Attorney, winner of the Woodbine Mile, is already in Japan preparing for the Mile Championship at Kyoto on Nov. 23. Marsh Side, the Neil Drysdale-trained winner of the Canadian International, will go in the Japan Cup, where he could meet three Japanese Derby winners in Deep Sky, Vodka, and Meisho Samson.

Kyoto: European invaders look strong

A weak local contingent at Kyoto on Sunday suggests that one of the two European challengers can prevail in the Grade 1, $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, a 1 3/8-mile turf contest for fillies and mares. Tres Rapide, trained in France by Henri-Alex Pantall, was a half-length second in the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu at 1 9/16 miles before failing to handle heavy ground when third last time in the Group 3 Prix de Flore at 1 5/16 miles. Fair Breeze, trained in Germany by Mario Hofer, won the Group 2 Prix Corrida in May and was second to Folk Opera in the Group 2 Prix Jean Romanet in August. With Vodka aiming for the Japan Cup, the best of the Japanese distaffers may be F T Maia, runner-up in the Japanese Oaks and Japanese 1000 Guineas, or Kawakami Princess, who was disqualified from first in the 2006 QEII Commemorative Cup.

* Viva Pataca looms as a short-priced favorite at Sha Tin in Sunday's Group 2, $387,000 International Cup Trial, the local 1 1/4-mile prep for the $2.5 million Hong Kong Cup on Dec. 14. Second in last year's Hong Kong Cup, Viva Pataca returned from a five-month layoff on Oct. 26 to win a one-mile handicap. He is trained by John Moore and will be ridden by Darren Beadman.