10/25/2006 12:00AM

Top rivals to settle score


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Twelve horses were pre-entered Wednesday for the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf, and the most compelling storyline is a familiar one for fans who have been following the turf division since springtime: English Channel will meet Cacique to settle what arguably has become the fiercest rivalry in any division this year.

In four meetings, English Channel, trained by Todd Pletcher, has finished ahead of Cacique twice, and Cacique has returned the favor on the other two occasions.

"We have banged heads a few times with Cacique," said Michael McCarthy, the Pletcher assistant who represented the stable Wednesday at the Breeders' Cup pre-entry breakfast at Churchill Downs. "Let the chips fall where they may in this one."

Cacique, trained by Bobby Frankel, and English Channel figure to vie for favoritism in the BC Turf, and the most accomplished European runner in the field, Hurricane Run, also figures to take plenty of action. Hurricane Run, the 2005 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe champion who had been one of the brightest stars in Europe until he was beaten in each of his last three races, effectively serves as a replacement for trainer Andre Fabre. Last year at Belmont Park, the Fabre-trained Shirocco led a 1-2-3-4 European sweep by upsetting the Turf. Shirocco had remained under consideration for this year's Turf until last week, when it was announced he was in the process of being sold to Sheikh Mohammed for stud duty in England.

Michael Tabor, the owner of Hurricane Run, also is the co-owner of one of the sleepers in the Turf: Scorpion, a 4-year-old who has raced just once since finishing 10th in the 2005 Arc. Scorpion, trained by Irish icon Aidan O'Brien, was second in a listed stakes Oct. 8 at the Curragh in his lone subsequent appearance.

Besides English Channel, Pletcher pre-entered three other horses in the Turf, although one of the three, the mare Honey Ryder, is more likely to race in the BC Filly and Mare Turf. The other Pletcher horses are Go Deputy, who would be wheeling back on just 12 days' rest after finishing second in the Canadian International last Sunday, and Icy Atlantic, an unabashed "rabbit" whose sole purpose is to ensure an honest pace for English Channel.

Better Talk Now, the upset winner of the 2004 BC Turf at Lone Star Park, also was among the pre-entries. Now 7, Better Talk Now is one of just two former Breeders' Cup champions who will compete in the Nov. 4 championships. Ouija Board, the 2004 Filly and Mare Turf winner, is the other.

Besides Shirocco last week, the Turf lost another major threat in The Tin Man, who defeated both Cacique and English Channel in the Aug. 12 Arlington Million. His defection leaves just one Turf runner from the West Coast: T.oH. Approval, who steadily closed to finish second behind The Tin Man in the Clement Hirsch last month.