05/30/2002 11:00PM

Act One favored in French Derby


Act One will be the even money favorite in the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) Sunday as he seeks to extend his undefeated streak to six in Chantilly's classic Group 1 mile and a half.

All the players in Act One's troupe are in place for the race which has been the goal of the Gerald Leigh-owned In The Wings colt since last autumn. Thierry Gillet will get a leg up from Jonathan Pease, who says that Act One is the best horse he has ever trained.

Act One has had two perfect preps for the Jockey-Club, winning the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe and the Group 1 Prix Lupin. Having to break from post 13 in a field of 15 should prove neither troublesome nor unlucky for a horse who has the tactical speed to lay close to the pace.

More difficult to overcome will be the challenge of the fast improving Khalkevi. By Epsom Derby winner Kahyasi, the Aga Khan's undefeated colt looked sharp when taking the Group 2 Prix Hocquart last month. As a firm ground specialist, however, the Alain de Royer-Dupre trainee might prefer the going to be a little firmer than Sunday's expected good.

Like Act One, British invader Simeon is in search of his sixth straight victory. An ex-handicapper, the Mark Johnston trainee has been supplemented for $56,250 following his 4-length score in the Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial.

Aidan O'Brien will saddle four in the $1.03 million contest. They are Kentucky Derby twelfth Castle Gandolfo, Galileo's full brother Black Sam Bellamy, who was placed second in the Hocquart, the Ballydoyle rabbit Temple Of Artemis, and Diaghilev, a $5 million yearling by Sadler's Wells.

That Michael Kinane has decided to ride Diaghilev suggests that the recent winner of the Group 3 Prix La Force is a force to be reckoned with, although he only won that race by a short neck from Le Fou, whose trainer John Hammond has won the French Derby with Suave Dancer and Montjeu.

Shaanmer had his unbeaten record ended when fourth in the French 2000 Guineas. The Andre Fabre trainee stretches out to the 1 1/8 miles of the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, but neither Group 3 Prix de Guiche winner Rouvres nor Godolphin's Imtiyaz can be overlooked.

In Japan, two-time Sha Tin Group 1 winner Eishin Preston is favored to win the $1.435 million one-mile Group 1 Yasuda Kinen, in which he will face a pair of challengers from Hong Kong, Jeune King Prawn and Red Pepper, who recently finished one-two in the Hong Kong Champions Mile.