10/30/2006 1:00AM

Transplant may raise U.S. colors

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The recent domination of the Breeders' Cup Turf by European invaders has not escaped the notice of trainer Bobby Frankel. So when it is mentioned that perhaps this will be the year for an American-based horse to win the $3 million BC Turf, Frankel is quick to say that maybe it is because American horses are that good, and not because the European contingent appears vulnerable.

"Maybe we're a little better this year than what people are used to thinking we are," said Frankel.

Since 1998, when the Illinois-bred Buck's Boy led through all three turns of the Churchill Downs course in winning the BC Turf, European shippers have won six of the ensuing seven runnings, including the 2003 dead heat between High Chapparal from Ireland and Johar from Southern California.

The Americans might finally be in for some relief Saturday, and that could be in no small part because of Frankel, whose Hall of Fame credentials were built largely on his prowess with grass horses. Although he has never won the BC Turf, he seems to stand as good a chance as anyone this time. He will send out Cacique, a Juddmonte Farms homebred who has been extremely productive since being shipped last winter from France to America, with a 2006 bankroll of nearly $1 million from just six starts - all of them, remarkably, in Grade 1 company.

Cacique had his final prerace workout Sunday at Keeneland, breezing six furlongs in 1:13 over Polytrack, after which Frankel said he can do little more than wait for the race.

"Everything's really good with the horse," Frankel said Monday morning at Churchill, where his entire Breeders' Cup contingent has settled in among his 20-horse string in Barn 23. "He's had a really good year, and I think whoever does better Saturday between him and English Channel, they should win the Eclipse Award" for top turf horse.

Cacique and English Channel have traded decisions from four meetings this year, with each finishing ahead of the other on two occasions. Together, they have combined for five Grade 1 victories this year, and with the European contingent for the BC Turf limited this year to relative unknowns Red Rocks and Scorpion, along with a Hurricane Run who appears to be off his peak form, those two alone are major reasons the Americans seem poised for an overdue win.

For Cacique, a big Turf effort would add to the incredible record for the female side of his family. His dam, Hasili, already has produced two Breeders' Cup champions, both in the Filly and Mare Turf (Banks Hill, 2001, and Intercontinental, 2005). Hasili also is the dam of Heat Haze, a multiple Grade 1 winner who was fourth in the 2003 Filly and Mare Turf, and Dansili, a multiple group winner overseas who was a fast-closing third behind War Chant in the 2000 BC Mile, his lone North American appearance.

Frankel prefers to regard those sharp previous Breeders' Cup efforts by his older siblings as a good omen for Cacique, an Irish-bred whose career began with 11 starts overseas, including three group victories, before he really began hitting his stride on this side of the pond. All six of his races this year have resulted in Beyer Speed Figures ranging from 103 to 109.

"A lot of my best horses start out racing in Europe," said Frankel, "so I guess you could kind of consider this horse a European. But he has really been good this year over here, so I don't know. Either way, if we win, we'll take it."