05/16/2005 12:00AM

Divine Proportions proves she's best


Divine Proportions established herself as Europe's leading 3-year-old filly with a brilliant five-length romp in the $504,000 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) at Longchamp on Sunday, shortly before Shamardal redeemed himself with a game victory in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas).

In extending her lifetime record to seven victories without a loss, Divine Proportions confirmed her 3-10 favoritism while giving her sire, Kingmambo, another classic triumph - but it was the style of her victory that was most impressive.

Her entrymate Ratukidul never got close to the lead, and Divine Proportions prompted the pace set by Cherokee, who was serving as the rabbit for the Aidan O'Brien-trained Silk and Scarlet. Christophe Lemaire eased Divine Proportions into the lead at the quarter pole, from which point the matter became academic. With a display of the instant acceleration that brought her the European 2-year-old filly championship last year, she cruised clear as Toupie and Ysoldina filled the places. Silk and Scarlet was fifth and Magical Romance, making her seasonal debut off a 7 1/2-month absence since having won the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, finished a rank sixth, 12 lengths behind the winner. Divine Proportions's time of 1:38.50 for the mile on soft ground was 0.70 of a second faster than that recorded by Shamardal, all the more impressive in that she did it largely by herself.

In chalking up the third Group 1 triumph of her career, Divine Proportions has convinced trainer Pascal Bary that "she is a phenomenon, and I have not trained a better filly than her." Bary, her owners, the Niarchos family, and their racing manager, Alan Cooper, must now decide what comes next. Cooper said it would either be a step up to 1 5/16 miles for the Prix de Diane, or French Oaks, at Chantilly on June 12, or a possible meeting with 1000 Guineas winner Virginia Waters in the one-mile Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot at York on June 17. In either case, Divine Proportions will be the odds-on favorite.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, Saeed bin Suroor, Simon Crisford and company at Godolphin heaved a sigh of relief as Frankie Dettori got the most out of Shamardal, who held on gamely for a front-running victory in the $504,000 Poule d'Essai des Poulains. Shamardal, Europe's juvenile champion, had flopped badly in the UAE Derby on March 26, but a return to turf and, perhaps more important, to a mile worked wonders.

The Giant's Causeway colt was all out to hold off the late-charging Indesatchel by a head as Gharir's rail bid fell another neck short, but in the end, Shamardal got the job done. In victory, he not only restored his reputation, but also gave Godolphin its first group-race score of the European season after disappointing losses by Dubawi, Satin Kiss, Papineau, and Grand Emporium.

Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, said that the St. James's Palace Stakes, a Group 1 mile for 3-year-old colts at Royal Ascot at York June 14, or the 1 1/2-mile Epsom Derby on June 4 could be next for Shamardal, but the manner of his victory at Longchamp on Sunday suggests that one mile may be his optimum distance.

* Vatori booked his place in the French Derby with a late-running victory in the Group 2, $151,500 Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud on Monday.

Trained by Philippe Demercaster and ridden by Stephane Pasquier, Vatori held off British invader Plea Bargain by a neck at 7-1 while traveling the 1 1/4 miles on good to soft ground in 2:08.20. Supplementary entry Melanosporum, the favorite, was third, another 1 1/2 lengths behind.

A full brother to Hightori, a four-time group winner on both turf and dirt, Vatori had concluded his juvenile campaign with a Saint-Cloud victory in the one-mile Group 3 Prix de Conde. Fourth behind Helios Quercus in the listed one-mile Prix Omnium II at Saint-Cloud in his seasonal debut on March 28, Vatori clearly enjoyed the added distance on Monday and will line up in the Prix du Jockey-Club, or French Derby, at Chantilly on June 5 with a good chance at that race's reduced distance of 1 5/16 miles.