05/13/2004 11:00PM

American Post in Poulains; targets Epsom


American Post has two assignments in the $413,000 Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp on Sunday. The first is to win the race, a Group 1 classic mile that is the French equivalent of the 2000 Guineas. The second is to prepare for the more daunting prospect of the Epsom Derby on June 5.

A victory Sunday is well within the grasp of American Post, who won April 25 in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau over the Poulains course and distance.

Richard Hughes will ride American Post, a Bering colt who is owned by Khalid Abdullah.

American Post's biggest threat may come from Diamond Green. A Group 3 winner at 2, Diamond Green was third in the Fontainebleau but, with Gary Stevens aboard, stands a better chance for the runner-up spot Sunday than either of Aidan O'Brien's Irish raiders, Antonius Pius and Newton. Byron, the Godolphin hope who won the six-furlong Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes, may find a mile a little too long.

Trainer Criquette Head-Maarek said a decision on the Epsom Derby for American Post will not be made until after the Poulains, but she is confident that 1 1/2 miles is within his range.

Stevens, who will be rushing back to France after he rides Rock Hard Ten in the Preakness at Pimlico, has a good chance to land his first French classic aboard Grey Lilas in the $413,000 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, or French 1000 Guineas. By Danehill, the sire of three group race winners in Europe earlier this week, Grey Lilas should improve off her victory in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte, which was run at the Pouliches distance of a mile.

There are several other threats in the 13-horse field, including Rumba Loca, the 4 1/2-length winner of the Italian 1000 Guineas. John Gosden will employ leading French rider Ioritz Mendizabal aboard Nyramba, the runner-up in the Fred Darling Stakes, and O'Brien will saddle Royal Tigress, winner of the listed Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial.

Completing the trio of Group 1 races on the Longchamp card is the Prix Lupin, the final French Derby prep. A 1 5/16-mile contest, the Prix Lupin is led by Prix Noailles winner Voix du Nord and Prix Greffulhe winner Millemix, but Stevens's mount, Valixir, cannot be ignored.

* At the Capannelle in Rome on Sunday, the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Premio Presidente della Repubblica features a clash between Godolphin's Vespone and Italian miler Le Vie dei Colori.

* Two valuable international events are on tap in Asia on Sunday. In the 1 1/4-mile $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup, Surveyor, a South African invader trained by Mike de Kock, will be hard to handle. Also in the race are two Germans, Paolini and Epalo; two French, Sarrasin and Gruntled; and one Briton, Imperial Dancer. At Tokyo, the seven-furlong Grade 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup at $1 million could go to Sunningdale, a recent six-furlong Group 1 winner, or Machikane Akatsuki, a winner two months ago in his first start since finishing third in last year's Japanese Derby.