09/13/2007 11:00PM

Arc contenders to be tested

EmailMany of the questions concerning this year's European pecking order should be answered on Sunday when five of the first eight favorites for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe will be in action at Longchamp in three course-and-distance preps for the big 1 1/2-mile race on Oct. 7.

Question No. 1 will be asked of Manduro. Rated the best horse in training anywhere in the world by the International Federation of Horseracing Associations, this Andre Fabre-trained son of Monsun has been perfect this year, winning the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes, the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, and the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois. But those victories came at nine, 10, and eight furlongs, respectively, and there is doubt, even in the Fabre camp, about Manduro's ability to stay the 12 furlongs required of an Arc winner.

That is the reason for his presence in the Group 2, $180,000 Prix Foy, the older-horse Arc prep. Whether Manduro, who will be ridden by Stephane Pasquier on Sunday, will run in the Arc, or be rerouted to the Champion Stakes or even the Breeders' Cup Classic, will be decided by his performance in the Foy, in which he will meet Mandesha, a three-time Group 1 winner last year whose lone victory this season came in the Group 2 Prix Corrida in May.

Mandesha, trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, has since been second in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the Nassau Stakes. A course-and-distance winner in last year's Prix Vermeille, she will have Christophe Soumillon in the irons.

Distant Way, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Gran Premio Presidente della Repubblica last time on May 13, could threaten in a typically small five-horse Foy field.

Zambezi Sun, the five-length course-and-distance winner of the Grand Prix de Paris on July 14, will be tested by the late-blooming Sageburg in the Arc prep for 3-year-olds, the Group 2, $180,000 Prix Niel. Pasquier has the call on this talented Pascal Bary-trained son of Dansili, but in Sageburg, Zambezi Sun is facing an undefeated Fabre-trained son of Johannesburg who is coming off a 2 1/2-length score in the listed 1 1/4-mile Prix Ridgway.

More dangerous is the nine-length Irish Derby winner, Soldier of Fortune, trained by Aidan O'Brien. Idle since that victory on July 1, he will not be bothered by the stamina limitations that may try Sageburg. Johnny Murtagh has the call.

The Arc trial limited to females, the Group 1, $416,000 Prix Vermeille, is a wide-open affair in which Montare, a head third to Macleya in the Group 2 Prix de Pomone, can take her revenge. She must, however, also contend with the French Oaks winner, West Wind, and a pair of sharp recent Group 3 winners in Vadapolina and Tashelka, both trained by Fabre, as well as Legerete, winner of the Group 2 Prix de Malleret.

For anyone wishing to place an Arc antepost bet before the trials, the general prices available are: Authorized 5-2, Manduro 5-1, Zambezi Sun 5-1, Dylan Thomas 6-1, Soldier of Fortune 9-1, Peeping Fawn 10-1, Sageburg 12-1, Mandesha 14-1.