05/30/2002 11:00PM

Act One set to steal French Derby show


Act One will be the even-money favorite in the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) at Chantilly Sunday, as he seeks to extend his undefeated streak to six.

All the players in Act One's troupe are in place for the race, which has been his goal since last autumn. Jockey Thierry Gillet will get a leg up from trainer 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 in the French Derby should be 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 and undefeated Khalkevi. By Epsom Derby winner Kahyasi, Khalkevi looked sharp winning the Group 2 Prix Hocquart last month. As a firm-ground specialist, however, he 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, he has been supplemented for $56,250 following his four-length score in the Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial.

Aidan O'Brien will saddle four in the $1 million Derby. They are Kentucky Derby 12th-place finisher 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, recent winner of the Group 3 Prix La Force, suggests that he is one to be reckoned with, although he only won that race by a neck over Le Fou.

o Shaanmer had his unbeaten record ended, running fourth in the French 2000 Guineas. He stretches out off 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.

o In Japan, two-time Sha Tin Group 1 winner Eishin Preston is favored to win the $1.4 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.