10/03/2004 12:00AM

Ex-claimer Var best in Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp


PARIS, France - Var, a former Calder claimer, gave Europe's best sprinters their comeuppance on Sunday with a stunning front-running victory in the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp.

The ex-Bill Mott trainee led all the way to take the $240,000 Abbaye. Frankie Dettori, sitting on Var for the first time, burst the 5-year-old son of Forest Wildcat out of the gate and rode him hard throughout. He quickly opened up three lengths but was not overly taxed to hold on by half a length from the late closing The Tatling, who had beaten him into second last time in the Group 3 Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury last time.

Sent off as the 2.90-1 favorite, Var landed his first Group 1 victory in 55 seconds flat, just .70 of a second off Habibti's 1983 track record.

Owner Mohammed Rashid had sent Var to Clive Brittain in Newmarket in February, but getting the ex-claimer to the races was not easy.

"The first time we had him out on the gallops, he kicked himself and took an inch of bone out of his shoulder," Brittain said. "He didn't race until Sept. 11 when he won a listed sprint at Goodwood. The next time he was only caught on the line by The Tatling."

"He's very, very fast," reported Dettori, "and the ground suited him perfectly." Brittain will talk to the owner before deciding upon Var's late autumn schedule, and while a trip to America is not an impossibility (the Breeders' Cup Sprint would necessitate an unlikely return to dirt), Brittain did mention a trip to the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin on Dec. 12, when Var would meet the world's reigning turf sprint champ, the undefeated Silent Witness.

Divine Proportions survives inquiry

The classy Divine Proportions all but nailed down the European juvenile filly championship with a two-length victory in the $300,000 Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, although she had to survive an inquiry to take possession of the winner's trophy.

Trapped on the rail behind the pacesetting Titian Time with Christophe Soumillon keeping the 7-10 choice hemmed in aboard Fraloga, Christophe Lemaire angled Divine Proportions out at the 3/16's pole, brushing with Fraloga. Once clear, Divine Proportions zoomed home, getting the mile in 1:36.70. Titian Time was second, a nose ahead of Fraloga.

Trainer Pascal Bary said that the Niarchos Family's undefeated daughter of Kingmambo, now a two-time Group 1 winner, would be rested through the winter. One or another of the European 1000 Guineas will surely be on her dance card next spring.

Oratorio takes Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere

Jamie Spencer, criticized of late on both sides of the Atlantic of late for suspect rides, showed that he was capable of great race riding as he brought the 3-1 Oratorio through on the rail to get up in time in the $420,000 Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Yet another son of Danehill, Oratorio prevailed by a neck from Group 3 Prix La Rochette winner Early March with Layman, second last time to Divine Proportions in the Group 1 Prix Morny, a nose behind the runner-up in third. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Oratorio, a Group 2 and Group 3 winner in Ireland, covered the largely downhill seven furlongs in 1:19.3.

Alexander Goldrun upsets Prix de l'Opera

The $300,000 Group 1 Prix de l'Opera had appeared to be designed as Grey Lilas' springboard to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. At the eighth-pole, the Andre Fabre-trained Danehill filly looked home clear, but neither she nor rider Eric Legrix was prepared for the late challenge of longshot Alexander Goldrun. Trained in Ireland by Jim Bolger, the daughter of Gold Away took the prize by a length, traveling the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.30. Grey Lilas has not been ruled out of the Filly & Mare Turf, but her chances of flying to Texas look much reduced after this effort.

Westerner solidifies rep as top marathon man

Westerner provided a strong argument that he is the best stayer in the world with a second successive victory in the 2 1/2-mile $240,000 Prix du Cadran. The 5-year-old son of, yes, Danehill, followed the quick pace of Anak Pekan and Goodwood Cup winner Darasim through the first 2 1/4 miles of the Group 1 marathon. When those two caved in, Olivier Peslier cruised to the front abroad the 3-5 choice to record a three-length triumph over Cut Quartz.

The winner of the Group 2 Vicomtesse Vigier and the Group 3 Prix Gladiateur this season, Westerner had been 1 1/2 lengths second to the absent Papineau in the Ascot Gold Cup in June. Trained by Elie Lellouche for his owner-breeder Ecurie Wildenstein, Westerner was clocked in 4:19.80, the second fastest Cadran since 1985.