04/25/2003 12:00AM

Falbrav starts year in Prix Ganay


Falbrav, the best horse to emerge from Italy since the 1988 Arc de Triomphe winner, Tony Bin, begins his 5-year-old campaign at Longchamp on Sunday in the 1 5/16-mile Prix Ganay, the first European Group 1 race of the year.

An Irish-bred son of Fairy King, Falbrav capped his 2002 season with a hard-fought nose victory over Sarafan in the Japan Cup on Nov. 24, his third Group 1 victory of the year for trainer Luciano d'Auria. During the winter, his owners at Scuderia Rencati sent him to Newmarket, where he is now trained by Luca Cumani, who will give a leg up to Kieren Fallon.

Falbrav will enjoy the good to firm ground at Longchamp, where he will face nine opponents. One is a filly, Ana Marie, who is coming off a victory against colts in the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt, and will have the services of the red-hot rider Christophe Soumillon.

Group race winners Fair Mix, Kaieteur, and Tau Ceti will challenge, but the biggest threat is Black Sam Bellamy, the Aidan O'Brien-trained winner of the Gran Premio del Jockey Club in October and already a listed winner this season.