04/08/2005 12:00AM

Heavy ground may favor Desideratum


Only five horses will line up at Longchamp for Sunday's Group 2 Prix Noailles, the first major prep for the June 5 French Derby.

Shortened this year from 1 3/8 miles to 1 5/16 miles to accommodate the French Derby, which has been shortened from 1 1/2 miles to 1 5/16 miles, the $154,000 Noailles will be run on ground that is expected to be very heavy.

Gold Sound owns marginally the best credentials of the Noailles quintet, having won a 1 5/16-mile listed race at Saint-Cloud last time. Silver Cross won a similar event at Cagnes-sur-Mer on Feb. 26, but that was only his first victory in seven starts.

Desideratum, though, may hold the key to the race. He won his March 31 season debut, a 1 1/4-mile allowance on very heavy ground at Longchamp, by four lengths.

* Cesario and Rhein Kraft are the fillies to beat in the $1.5 million Oka Sho, or Japanese 1000 Guineas, at Hanshin on Sunday. Winner of the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Flower Cup at Nakayama on March 19, Cesario has tracking speed that should enable her to cut back in distance to a mile. Rhein Kraft may be more accomplished, having won the Grade 2 Guineas Trial at Hanshin on March 13.