05/10/2002 12:00AM

Fabre pair vs. Medecis in Guineas


PARIS - Two classic mile events and the final prep for the French Derby will be run at Longchamp Sunday, but for once the spoils may not go to Aidan O'Brien or Saeed bin Suroor.

The Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) has drawn a field of 13, from which a pair of Andre Fabre-trained colts should vie for favoritism. Shaanmer is the unbeaten winner of the Group 3 Prix des Chenes. He is using this as a prep for the 1 1/2-mile French Derby but may actually be better suited by a mile.

Shaanmer's stablemate Bowman is coming off a course and distance victory in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau but may have difficulty holding off the neck runner-up in that race, Medecis, on Sunday.

Medecis, trained by Criquette Head, was unlucky to lose in the Prix de Fontainebleau, his first defeat in four starts. He may have a conditioning edge and he has drawn ideally in post 5.

The front-running Redback, a close third behind Rock of Gibraltar in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last Saturday, cannot be ignored, but the Godolphin duo of Firebreak and Waldenburg, and the three O'Brien-trained entries - Landseer, Della Francesca, and Sahara Desert - may have to settle for a placing at best.

Banks Hill's sister

Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Banks Hill, who will make her 4-year-old debut in the Prix d'Ispahan next Sunday, finished second in last year's Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas). On Sunday, trainer Andre Fabre and owner Khalid Abdullah will be hoping that her half-sister Heat Haze can go one better.

Heat Haze should improve off an unlucky second in an allowance race last week, but she will break from post 16 in a field of 17 fillies. Sophisticat, winner of the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte over the course and distance in her seasonal debut, is trained by O'Brien. Among those she will have to turn back are recent John Gosden-trained maiden winners Zenda and Camaret, and the Dermot Weld-trained Irish invader, Rum Charger.

o Act One looked sharp winning the Prix Greffulhe in his seasonal debut and rates a narrow choice over Ballydoyle's Prix Noailles winner Ballingarry in the 1 5/16-mile Prix Lupin. Those two have a decided advantage over their five rivals in this Group 1 race, which will determine the main French Derby challengers to the winner of Wednesday's Prix Hocquart, Khalkevi.