05/20/2010 11:00PM

Goldikova shaky at the distance

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Goldikova sets out Sunday on the road to what she hopes will be a third consecutive Breeders' Cup Mile title when she meets a first-class field in the Group 1, $312,000 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp.

Trainer Freddie Head and owners Gerard and Alain Wertheimer will be holding their breath, however, as the 5-year-old Goldikova failed in this same race last year when she was seventh on unsuitably soft ground.

The going will be good at Longchamp on Sunday, but the distance of the Ispahan remains unchanged at 1 1/8 miles, 55 yards. Is this too long a trip for Goldikova? She has only been farther than a mile one other time, finishing third, 4 1/2 lengths behind Zarkava, in the 1 5/16-mile French Oaks. Olivier Peslier has the job of holding her together through the extra distance, but it is the quality of the opposition that poses a bigger threat to the seven-time Group 1/Grade 1 winner.

Looming large is Stacelita. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget and owned by American Martin Schwartz, Stacelita won a trio of Group 1's last year, among them the French Oaks and the 1 1/4-mile Prix Saint-Alary. She, too, is making her seasonal debut and will be ridden by Christophe Soumillon.

The Andre Fabre-trained Byword is fresh from a May 1 victory in the one-mile, Group 1 Prix du Muguet, a race that might have been a more sensible return for Goldikova. Wiener Walzer, the winner last year of the German Derby and the Rhineland-Pokal, both 1 1/2-mile Group 1's, also will be making his seasonal debut. Board Meeting, second in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera and the winner of the Group 3 Prix de Psyche, both at 1 1/4 miles, makes her first start of the season for Elie Lellouche.

Also on the card is this year's edition of the $312,000 Prix Saint-Alary, the key 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 prep for the French Oaks. Bloodline aficionados will be keeping a close eye on Deluxe, a Storm Cat filly who is bidding to become the sixth Group 1 winner produced by her dam, Hasili. Trained by Fabre for her breeder, Khalid Abdullah, Deluxe won a one-mile Chantilly maiden in her Sept. 22 debut, then took a one-mile allowance at Longchamp in her most recent outing on April 15. She was considered for the French 1000 Guineas last Sunday, but Fabre said he believes she will be better at distances beyond a mile. Maxime Guyon rides.

Helen Barbe has supplemented her Group 3 Prix Penelope winner Dariole. Trainer Pascal Bary has given the mount to Gregory Benoist. Godolphin hopes that its Group 1 Fillies Mile winner Hibaayeb can bounce back from her horrible 16th-place finish in the 1000 Guineas while Sarafina and T'As d'Beaux Yeux both put their modest unbeaten records on the line.