10/05/2003 11:00PM

Dalakhani takes Arc over boggy course


PARIS - Winners of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe are frequently draped in the multicolored mantle of hyperbole. And while Dalakhani's performance in the $1.87 million race at Longchamp on Sunday deserves high praise, it does not rank him among the greatest of Arc winners.

In defeating the very game Group 2-type Mubtaker by three-quarters of a length, Dalakhani not only established himself as one of the best 3-year-old in the world, but he also displayed a versatility rarely seen in a Thoroughbred of his relatively tender years.

Dalakhani is a son of Darshaan and a half-brother to another horse known for his versatility, Daylami. He has now won 8 of his 9 career starts, landing Group 1 races between a mile and 1 1/2 miles on ground ranging from heavy to good-to-firm.

Sunday's effort was his best yet for trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre. The going was intolerably sticky, but Dalakhani handled it with the same aplomb he had when he cruised to an embarrassingly easy victory on good ground in the French Derby in June.

But the sticky surface at Longchamp deprived accomplished rivals like High Chaparral, Ange Gabriel, and Kris Kin from running to their true form. Moreover, this was an Arc lacking the presence of Sulamani and Alamshar, both of whom have opted for North American campaigns.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will see Dalakhani on a racecourse again.

"We are a breeding operation," stated the winning owner, the Aga Khan, "and we race horses to breed the best of them. Dalakhani will not run again this year. As for next year, give me some time to think about it."

Royer-Dupre said he thinks that Dalakhani would be even better at age 4, but the decision concerning Dalakhani's future will be made by the Aga Khan, who won his third Arc after the successes of Akiyda in 1982 and Sinndar in 2000.

Dalakhani was aided immeasurably on Sunday by his rider, Christophe Soumillon, a 22-year-old jockey with whom the French racing public has developed a love-hate relationship.

As cocksure as any preening rooster, Soumillon is also an excellent judge of pace and, as the Aga Khan pointed out, "is sufficiently calm never to lose his presence of mind if things are not going his way."

Coming from near the back of the 13-runner field, Soumillon found every seam, overcoming a three-length lead that Mubtaker had opened at the quarter pole to lead a furlong out. Never a horse to do more than is necessary, Dalakhani held the 32-1 Mubtaker safe the rest of the way to reward his many backers at 7-5, getting the 1 1/2 miles in 2:32.30.

Jockey Michael Kinane blamed the ground for High Chaparral's second straight third-place Arc finish. He was five lengths behind Mubtaker, but he will surely do better in defense of his Breeders' Cup Turf title at Santa Anita, where the ground will be in his favor.

Mubtaker, who was nearly withdrawn by trainer Marcus Tregoning because of the gluey going, could yet run in the Canadian International, according to owner Hamdan Al Maktoum. If he turns up at Woodbine, he could run into another one of the Aga Khan's homebreds, the Irish Derby and King George winner, Alamshar.

Doyen, who finished fourth, continued to show improvement, while fifth-place Vinnie Roe wasn't quite up to the task. Meanwhile, Ange Gabriel might go in the Japan Cup in Tokyo where the turf course is nearly always firm.