09/25/2003 11:00PM

Arc's 12 furlongs suit Vinnie Roe perfectly

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At 1 1/2 miles, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is what many American observers would call a "marathon." Yet in the terminology employed by Europeans, it is a "middle distance" race.

That is because in Europe, the Arc distance falls between that of a mile and the true stayers' races, run at 1 3/4 miles or farther. Yet who would argue that to win the Arc, a great deal of stamina is required?

The first six furlongs of the Arc course at Longchamp are uphill, but the importance of the event and the large size of the field dictate that a strong pace, even by American standards, will be set. It is absolutely essential that an Arc runner be capable of staying 12 furlongs.

Last year's Arc winner, Marienbard, is a case in point. A stayer at heart, he is a son of Caerleon out of a Darshaan mare. At 4 he won the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup at 1 3/4 miles and was second to Vinnie Roe in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger over the same distance. In his Arc year he ran six times, all at 1 1/2 miles, with four victories culminating in his Arc triumph.

The 1998 Arc winner, Sagamix, was a stayer who needed a quagmire, not necessarily to show his best, but in order to run his opposition into the heavy ground. Autumn in Paris was a wet one that year, and Sagamix's stamina was on display when he won the Prix Niel as well as the Arc.

Devotees of stamina were nearly rewarded in 1982 when Ardross almost gave Lester Piggott a fourth Arc victory. By Run the Gantlet out of a mare by Levmoss, a key source of staying power, Ardross was closing fastest of all in the soft going and missed catching the 3-year-old filly Akiyda by just a head.

Ardross had come into that Arc with victories in the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Stakes, the 1 3/4-mile Yorkshire Cup, the two-mile Henry II Stakes, the 1 5/8-mile Geoffrey Freer Stakes, and, finally, the 2 1/4-mile Doncaster Cup - just 24 days before his gallant effort at Longchamp.

In the aforementioned Vinnie Roe, Dermot Weld has a stayer who could go Ardross one better.

By Irish Derby runner-up Definite Article, Vinnie Roe is out of the unraced Tap on Wood mare Kayu, herself a daughter of Ladytown, a half-sister to Irish St. Leger winner M-Lolshan. This may all sound rather obscure to students of American pedigrees, but it has worked for Virginia Moeran, Vinnie Roe's breeder, as well as his owner, Seamus Sheridan.

For Vinnie Roe has won the Irish St. Leger an unprecedented three times. He has also won the French equivalent, the 1 15/16-mile Prix Royal-Oak. On May 30, 2002, he carried 141 pounds to a four-length victory in the listed 1 3/4-mile Saval Beg Stakes while giving runner-up Crimphill 12 pounds. Three months later, he carried 140 pounds and won the listed 1 1/2-mile Ballyroan Stakes over Millstreet, who was in receipt of 18 pounds. And on Aug. 17 of this year, he again carried 140 pounds to victory in the Ballyroan, his seasonal debut, while giving 17 pounds to runner-up Carpanetto.

But Vinnie Roe's best race probably came in Australia last Nov. 5, when he toted high weight of 130 pounds in the Melbourne Cup. Although he faded to fourth in the two-mile Group 1 handicap, he was giving the first three finishers 13 to 15 pounds.

In the Arc, Vinnie Roe will carry the same 131-pound assignment as High Chaparral and Ange Gabriel, but he will have to give the 3-year-old favorite, Dalakhani, 12 pounds on the scale. Weld says that Vinnie Roe deserves his chance in what still rates as Europe's best race. Proven versus lesser at the Arc distance, he may actually be better on soft ground than on good. In either case, Vinnie Roe will be staying on when most of the others are looking for a wayside inn.