04/22/2005 12:00AM

Bago back at Longchamp


With its labor problems temporarily resolved, Longchamp will be open Sunday for the seasonal debuts of European champions Bago and Divine Proportions.

Bago, the Arc winner and European champion 3-year-old, faces a stern test in the 1 5/16-mile $261,000 Prix Ganay, the first Group 1 race on the European calendar. Trained by Jonathan Pease, Bago also won at Longchamp going 1 1/4 miles in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris and has been working well in the morning at Chantilly. Like his nine opponents, however, he will have to trudge through drying out, sticky ground. Thierry Gillet will take his regular place in the saddle.

Bago's main challenger could be Voix du Nord. A Group 1 winner last spring, Voix du Nord would have started as the favorite for the French Derby but suffered a season-ending injury on the eve of the race. Blue Canari, who won the French Derby in Voix du Nord's absence, will also line up in the Ganay. He is winless in two tries since the derby and was well beaten by Bago in the Arc.

Divine Proportions puts her 5-for-5 record on the line in the $97,905 Group 3 Prix de la Grotte. A two-time Group 1 winner, Divine Proportions is using this race as a course and distance prep for the one-mile Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, or French 1000 Guineas, on May 15. Trainer Pascal Bary will give Christophe Lemaire a leg up on Divine Proportions, who must turn back the challenges of Silk and Scarlet, who won the Group 2 Debutante Stakes, as well as recent listed winners Green Girl and Valima.

The Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau, the traditional one-mile prep for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, or French 2000 Guineas, is a wide-open affair - Terra Verde and Melanosporum, an unbeaten pair of allowance winners; Turtle Bowl; and Irish invader Cougar Cat all have a chance.

Helios Quercus, the current favorite for the French Derby, heads a field of five in the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Prix La Force. The winner of the Group 1 Criterium International last fall, Helios Quercus prepped with a win in the listed Prix Omnium II and should take the measure of undefeated listed winner Biens Nanti.

* At Sandown Park on Friday, the 9-2 Fracas enhanced his Epsom Derby credentials with a 1 1/2-length win over Merger in the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Classic Trial Stakes.