10/02/2002 11:00PM

Two favorites have BC Mile hopes


ARCADIA, Calif. - The realistic Breeders' Cup hopes of Congaree and D'wildcat this year are limited to the $1 million Mile.

Congaree has not been effective beyond 1 1/16 miles, eliminating him from consideration for the Breeders' Cup Classic over 1 1/4 miles. D'wildcat was a disappointment as a sprinter in the spring and summer, leading to a midyear transfer to turf.

Both start in Saturday's $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Santa Anita, trying to justify trips to the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park on Oct. 26.

Congaree will go favored on the strength of his win in the Grade 2 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sept. 2. D'wildcat, the likely second choice, has been promoted from second to first in two stakes this year and will be trying to win his first stakes outright in 19 months.

The front-running Congaree drew the rail and will be ridden by Mike Smith, who was aboard in the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap. The Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile will be his first start on turf.

"This is an avenue we wanted to take," trainer Bob Baffert said. "We thought, if we're going to the Breeders' Cup, we need to find out if he likes it. He needs to run well. This horse is getting bigger. I think he's getting better with age."

Aside from D'wildcat, the challengers include I Love Silver, third in the Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar; Kachamandi, Nicobar, and Night Patrol, who have won or placed in minor stakes this year; and Spinelessjellyfish, the durable California-bred.

The longshot Zanapour will be trying to win his first stakes. A 4-year-old, Zanapour is trained by Julio Canani, who used the Oak Tree Mile as a successful prep for the BC Mile with Silic (1999) and Val Royal (2001). War Chant also won both races in 2000.

D'wildcat has made two starts on turf. In the Live the Dream Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 11, he finished second to Devine Wind and was promoted to first.

"I know I've been saying it all year: Hopefully this is his coming out party," trainer Bob Hess said. "I can predict a good effort. Congaree is the horse to catch, especially on this turf course."

Both Hess and Baffert realize that their starters must win or run extremely well to justify a trip to the Breeders' Cup.