10/20/2003 11:00PM

Turf, not Classic, for Falbrav

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Falbrav stretches his legs under exercise rider Keith Leddington Tuesday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Falbrav will start in Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita, ending nearly a week of speculation about whether a horse widely considered to be the best in Europe this year would stay on grass or try the main track in the $4 million Classic.

Trainer Luca Cumani made the announcement on Tuesday after conferring with owners Luciano Salice and Teruya Yoshida.

The inclusion of Falbrav in the Turf adds depth to a field that features defending champion High Chaparral; Storming Home, a three-time stakes winner this year; and Sulamani, the winner of the Turf Classic at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.

The field also includes Balto Star, Johar, The Tin Man, and Toccet.

The Turf is one of several races on the Breeders' Cup program with numerous contenders. Only the Distaff, led by Sightseek, and the Juvenile Fillies, led by Halfbridled, will have short-priced favorites.

Post positions for the Breeders' Cup program were scheduled to be drawn on Wednesday. The weather for Saturday is forecast to be sunny with a high of 77 degrees, about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than conditions at the beginning of the week.

The Turf lost a starter on Tuesday when Deeliteful Irving was withdrawn, but it may have a gained a female runner in Bright Sky, a Group 2 winner in France this year.

Deeliteful Irving, second to Sulamani in the Turf Classic, was withdrawn after trainer Michael Dickinson said he was unhappy with the way the 5-year-old came out of a workout last week, according to a member of his staff. Dickinson did not disclose future plans for Deeliteful Irving, the person said.

Bright Sky was also pre-entered for the $1 million Filly and Mare Turf. International racing officials said a decision on her Breeders' Cup race would be made before entries on Wednesday.

Trained by Elie Lellouche, Bright Sky won the Group 2 Prix d'Astarte at Deauville, France, in August. She has been third in two subsequent Group 1 races - the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp against males and the Prix de l'Opera against females.

Storming Home, the winner of the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, is the likely favorite in the Turf, but he will not be much shorter of a price than Sulamani or Falbrav.

Cumani said the decision to run Falbrav in the Turf was made to avoid a late-season experiment on dirt.

"The final decision was that the owners decided to stay on the main surface on which he's been racing," he said.

In the Turf, Falbrav will be trying to win his fifth major stakes of 2003. He won the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp in May, the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, England, in July, the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York in August, and the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile at Ascot on Sept. 27.

In between the Juddmonte and the Queen Elizabeth, Falbrav finished second to High Chaparral in a controversial running of the Irish Champion Stakes over 1 1/4 miles at Leopardstown, Ireland, on Sept. 6.

Falbrav raced in tight quarters in the final quarter-mile, and the outcome was the subject of a lengthy steward's inquiry. The order of finish was not changed, but the stewards' decision was appealed to the Irish Turf Club by Falbrav's owners. On Monday, the appeal was denied.

Falbrav has not won at 1 1/2 miles this year but did win a Group 1 in Italy over the distance in 2002. Cumani does not consider the distance to be a factor since the first three furlongs of Saturday's Turf will be run on the downhill portion of the course. In Europe, Falbrav occasionally raced on courses with uphill finishes.

"Those races were over courses in Europe that are stiffer than Santa Anita," Cumani said. "Given the nature of Santa Anita, we think he will be fine."