09/30/2004 11:00PM

Grey Swallow heads 20-horse scramble

Japanese Racing Association
Tap Dance City wins the Japan Cup in December. He has the speed and maybe the stamina to win Sunday's Arc.

PARIS - The 83rd running of the $1.92 million at Longchamp on Sunday, while not the greatest renewal of Europe's championship race, is hardly lackluster as 12 of its 20 entrants are Group 1 winners.

The absence, however, of a standout like Dalakhani, Montjeu, or Peintre Celebre, exacerbated by the recent withdrawals of Doyen, Sulamani, and Mubtaker, makes this the most wide-open Arc in at least two decades.

Even with the ground threatening to slip over onto the soft side of good, only the few horses who must have a quagmire will be inconvenienced by the going. Some are lacking experience, others need a shorter distance, and still others are coming off lengthy layoffs.

One who goes on any ground, is comfortable over the Arc's distance of 1 1/2 miles, and has experience at this level is the Japanese invader Tap Dance City. Winner of the 1 3/8-mile Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinnen in his last start, the Shozo Sasaki-trained Tap Dance City was a brilliant 11-length winner of last year's Japan Cup against a top international field that was only slightly less accomplished than this Arc group.

A front-runner, Tap Dance City has the speed and stamina to perhaps carry the day. And victory might salve the wounds suffered by the Japanese in the 1999 Arc, when El Condor Pasa was caught late by Montjeu. Tap Dance City has gone through an odyssey to get to Paris from Tokyo, scrambling to catch a plane on Tuesday after his original Sunday flight had been canceled. But while he is in top form, he can only be a lukewarm recommendation because he has not run since June 27.

Irish Derby winner Grey Swallow might go off as a mild favorite over North Light, the Irish Derby runner-up who had previously won the Epsom Derby. Trained by Dermot Weld, Grey Swallow could have a big advantage over the Michael Stoute-trained North Light, who, like Tap Dance City, has not run since June 27.

Grey Swallow, meanwhile, prepped for the Arc with a close fourth in the highly competitive Irish Champion Stakes on Sept. 11.

If a 3-year-old is to win, it might well be Prospect Park. A Wertheimer brothers son of Sadler's Wells, trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias, Prospect Park was nipped at the line by longshot Blue Canari in the French Derby and was since nipped again by Valixir in the Prix Niel, an Arc course and distance prep.

A close third in the French Derby, Valixir would be no surprise if he won the Arc, but his Andre Fabre-trained stablemate Cherry Mix, winner of the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville last out on Aug. 29, is one of the ones who would prefer heavy ground.

Bago is a 3-year-old of undoubted ability, who is probably better going 1 1/4 miles. A son of Nashwan trained by Jonathan Pease, Bago won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at 2,000 meters, or about 1 1/4 miles, on June 27. Bago then chased home Valixir and Prospect Park in the Prix Niel and is likely to be behind them both again. Still, his connections say he is headed for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

A large contingent of Brits is expected in the anticipated crowd of about 35,000 at Longchamp, and they might be prompted by patriotism to back Warrsan. A Clive Brittain-trained 6-year-old son of Caerleon, Warrsan won his second consecutive Coronation Cup in June and was most recently the winner of the Grosser Preis von Baden. He has, however, never defeated this kind of company.

Neither has the 4-year-old filly Vallee Enchantee, although she could be the most dangerous closer in the race.

Of the two best 3-year-old fillies, English and Irish Oaks winner Ouija Board has been away since July 18 and is facing older colts for the first time, while French Oaks champ Latice is likely to find the 12 furlongs at least one furlong too far.

Godolphin fans might be tempted to back Mamool, but, remember, Mamool is the Dubai outfit's third-string runner, behind Doyen and Sulamani. Mamool won the Group 3 September Stakes, the race that was won last year by Arc runner-up Mubtaker in only his second start of the year, on Sept. 4 - and he has the services of jockey Frankie Dettori. But his chances of victory are really no better than those of eight or nine others.

* The Arc will be televised live, post time 11:30 a.m. Eastern, by Television Games Network. Advance wagering on the Arc and three other races on the Longchamp card will be available at betting outlets beginning Saturday.

The field

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barrierre
Purse: $1,920,000; 1 1/2 miles, turf; Group 1

117ExecuteD. Boeuf13130-1
24Policy MakerT. Thulliez13125-1
314MamoolL. Dettori1316-1
48WarrsanK. McEvoy1317-1
515Imperial DancerT. Duncan13150-1
618Tap Dance CityT. Sato13112-1
716Vallee EnchanteeS. Pasquier12815-1
810PrideT. Jarnet12830-1
912North LightK. Fallon1236-1
103Blue CanariC.-P. Lemaire12320-1
111Cherry MixC. Soumillon12316-1
1220ValixirE. Legrix12315-1
1319AcropolisJ. Spencer12350-1
145BagoT. Gillet12310-1
1511Grey SwallowP. Smullen1234-1
167ShiroccoA. Suborics12330-1
172Prospect ParkO. Peslier12312-1
186SilverskayaI. Mendizabal12030-1
1913LaticeM. Kinane12030-1
209Ouija BoardJ. Murtagh12020-1

* DRF line
* Television: Sunday, 6-7 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN