03/23/2004 1:00AM

U.S. sprinters go for Shaheen gold

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - American sprinters pretty much have their rivals surrounded in Saturday's $2 million Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba.

The five U.S.-based entrants drew posts toward the inside and on the outside in the six-furlong race, which is run on a straightaway.

Cajun Beat, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint last October, drew post 3, inside of Tsigane and Tour of the Cat, who drew posts 4 and 5. The California-based Our New Recruit will start from post 10, while the Florida-based stakes winner Alke breaks from the outside in the field of 12.

Stephen Margolis, who trains Cajun Beat, said he is not worried about an inside draw for his horse, who races close to the front. "It's a straightaway and the speed horses will get better positions than the closers," he said.

Alke and Cajun Beat were the first two finishers in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 7. Our New Recruit, third in the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 1, is seeking his first stakes win. Tour of the Cat won the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap at Calder last fall. Tsigane is trying dirt for the first time, following a win in a turf sprint at Santa Anita last month.

Horses from the United States have won three of the last four runnings of the Golden Shaheen.

The Golden Shaheen field includes defending champion State City, who drew post 7.

Post positions for the five Thoroughbred stakes on the undercard of the $6 million Dubai World Cup were drawn on Tuesday. The draw was conducted at the offices of the Emirates Racing Association and was not open to the public.

There are nine American-based runners in the five undercard races, with the largest contingent in the Golden Shaheen.

In the last four runnings of the Golden Shaheen, with fields ranging from 12 to 15 horses, the winners have come from posts 10, 8, 7, and 6.

While Cajun Beat's success is well known, Alke, a 4-year-old, has improved remarkably since joining Todd Pletcher's stable last summer. Owned by Kenneth English and Alan Braun, Alke is unbeaten in his last four starts - three allowance races and the Deputy Minister, his sprint stakes debut.

In that race, over 6 1/2 furlongs, Alke disputed the lead throughout and pulled away to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Cajun Beat. Alke carried 112 pounds, while Cajun Beat carried 123.

"He deserves a chance to be in there," said Michael McCarthy, an assistant to Pletcher. "In his last race, we were getting 11 pounds from the Breeders' Cup winner, but he is getting better."

While six-furlong straightaway courses are common in European turf racing, they are almost non-existent on dirt tracks.

The different style of sprinting on a straight course has not hurt American shippers.

Big Jag won the 2000 running of the Golden Shaheen, and Caller One and Men's Exclusive finished one-two in 2001. Caller One successfully defended his title in 2002, and American invaders Echo Eddie (2nd), Xtra Heat (3rd), Men's Exclusive (4th) and Bonapaw (6th) also earned purse money.

State City beat American runners Avanzado (2nd), Captain Squire (3rd), and My Cousin Matt (5th) last year. Avanzado broke from post 2, Captain Squire from post 11.

Two U.S. runners in Godolphin Mile

Aside from the Golden Shaheen and the World Cup, which has four U.S.-based runners, the only other race with more than one American entrant is the $1 million Godolphin Mile, which has drawn California shippers During and Excessivepleasure.

Both are coming off losses.

Excessivepleasure was defeated by a combined 34 lengths in two starts at Santa Anita in January, finishing seventh in the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes on Jan. 10 and 10th in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic two weeks later. The San Fernando was at 1 1/16 miles and the Sunshine Millions Classic at 1 1/8 miles.

The form of those races has held up. During, the San Fernando winner, returned to finish a game second in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 7. Sunshine Millions Classic winner Southern Image returned to win the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 6.

In both losses, Excessivepleasure showed speed and faded. Leandro Mora, an assistant trainer to Doug O'Neill who traveled to Dubai with Excessivepleasure and Fleetstreet Dancer - the stable's Dubai World Cup entrant - hopes a shorter race will help Excessivepleasure.

Excessivepleasure was near the front at the eighth pole of the San Fernando, Mora pointed out, and the gelding's wins last year in the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park, the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows, and the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park all came when he was on or near the lead.

"A one-turn mile helps us a lot," Mora said.

During, a 3-2 favorite with English bookmakers, has a similar style. Trained by Bob Baffert, During has won four stakes in his last 10 starts, including the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park over 1 1/8 miles last July and the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park over a mile last September.

The post position draw may cause problems for the pair.

During drew the rail, while Excessivepleasure drew post 3 in the field of nine. The race is run out of a chute, with a long run to the turn.

"I hope we don't kill each other off and leave it for one of the horses over here," Mora said. "We have to have a good break."

During handled the shipping here without incident, according to Tim Yakteen, Baffert's assistant.

"Everything is going according to plan," said Yakteen. "He seems to be thriving."

The Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing will have two starters in the Godolphin Mile - Firebreak, the defending champion, and Inamorato, who raced in New York last year. Firebreak is winless in his last three starts, while Inamorato lost to During twice last year, finishing fourth in the Jerome and third in the Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct.

Hard Buck meets Polish Summer in Sheema

Hard Buck, the upset winner of the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap last month, faces a strong cast of Europeans in the $2 million Sheema Classic at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Trained by Kenneth McPeek, Hard Buck drew post 10 in the field of 13. John Velazquez has the mount.

Polish Summer, who won the Group 3 Prix Exbury in France on March 6, is a top contender. Gary Stevens rides Polish Summer, who is trained by Andre Fabre of France. Stevens is joining Fabre's stable next week as first string stable jockey, an arrangement that will keep him away from the United States for most of the year.

Sarafan lone American in Duty Free

Sarafan, the winner of the 2002 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar, is the lone American runner in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free Stakes over about 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Sarafan drew post 8 in the Duty Free, which has 11 entrants.

Several Dubai Duty Free runners have started in the U.S. in the past year. Evolving Tactics won the American Derby at Arlington Park last July; Bright Sky was sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf; Refuse to Bend was 11th in the Breeders' Cup Mile; and Paolini finished in a dead heat for third in the Arlington Million. Paolini was moved up to second after the disqualification of winner Storming Home.

The Duty Free will be Sarafan's fourth start outside of the United States in the last 18 months. In the fall of 2002, he finished second in the Japan Cup and fourth in the Hong Kong Cup. Last November, he finished 17th in the Japan Cup. Sarafan was intended to start in Hong Kong a few weeks later, but was withdrawn after failing a pre-race drug test.

Drysdale nixes From the Sky try

From the Sky, a Group 1 winner from Argentina trained by Neil Drysdale, was not entered for the $2 million UAE Derby on Tuesday. Drysdale decided not to run From the Sky after he worked six furlongs in 1:15.22 on Monday evening.

Recently acquired by Gary Tanaka, From the Sky has not started since winning a Group 1 in Argentina in December. Following Tanaka's acquisition, From the Sky was sent directly to Dubai, accompanied by Pico Perdomo, a bloodstock agent and former trainer. Perdomo trained Gourmet Girl, the winner of the 2001 Eclipse Award as the outstanding older female.

There are no American-based entrants in the UAE Derby, which drew nine.