04/12/2002 12:00AM

Big prep day at Longchamp


Longchamp will be the scene of three important French classic preps on Sunday when Act One makes his seasonal debut in the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe.

A son of Breeders' Cup Turf winner In the Wings, Act One scored a victory in the Group 1 Criterium International that made him the highest rated French-based juvenile last year.

Trained by Chantilly-based Englishman Jonathan Pease for his compatriot Gerald Leigh, the British-bred Act One faces four foes in this 1 5/16-mile prep for the French Derby, but none of them has won anything better than an allowance race. Canberra, an Aidan O'Brien-trained son of Sadler's Wells, may be the best of them.

The one-mile Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau, a key prep for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas), promises to be more competitive.

O'Brien is sending Landseer, a Group 3 winner at Royal Ascot who finished a half-length behind Act One in the Criterium International, to face the progressive Rashbag, the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained winner of the Group 3 Prix de Conde in his final start of 2001. Criquette Head-Maarek could trump the favorites with Medecis, her undefeated two-time listed winner who is coming off a victory in the Prix Omnium II on March 26.

The Prix de la Grotte, the filly equivalent of the Fontainebleau, is headed by Prix Marcel Boussac runner-up Danseuse d'Etoile. She will be tested by the O'Brien-trained raider Sophisticat, who will be making her first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile FIllies, recent listed winner Loupy Glitters, and the unbeaten Firth of Lorne.

O'Brien has diverted High Chaparral from the Greffulhe to the listed Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown. In doing so, he is putting this son of Sadler's Wells on the same path to the Epsom Derby as was taken last year by Galileo.

A three-quarter-length winner of the Racing Post Trophy over Castle Gandolfo in October, High Chaparral looms a short-priced favorite in this 1 1/4-mile contest despite having to give away nine to 12 pounds to six rivals.