10/05/2003 11:00PM

Heavy turf for Longchamp Group 1s


PARIS, France - So sticky was the ground at Longchamp on Sunday, that it is difficult to surmise the impact made by the five Group 1 races which serve as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe undercard.

The Prix de l'Opera, a test for fillies and mares which went in 2:08.00, was taken by the 18.30-1 Zee Zee Top. A Michael Stoute-trained daughter of Zafonic, she was winning for the first time since taking a listed race at York in May. While she is through for the year, the unlucky runner-up Yesterday and the third-place Bright Sky will both be heading for Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Yesterday met trouble entering the 2-1/2-furlong stretch and was last of ten at the quarter pole. Her late run fell a head short and she has now added to luckless seconds in the English Oaks and the Prix Vermeille along with a victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas.

Bright Sky looked like the winner a furlong out and was game to be third, a neck behind Yesterday. The Wildenstein flagbearer will relish the fast ground at Santa Anita. Meanwhile, Ana Marie hated the ground in fifth but is a possibility for the Hong Kong Cup.

Oasis Dream was supposed to have used the 5-furlong Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp as his final prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile. He was, however, withdrawn because of the ground and will head directly to Santa Anita for the Mile.

In his absence, the Abbaye went to 20.50-1 ex-handicapper Patavellian, who held off the late rush of the 36-1 The Trader by a length, getting the straight five panels in 59.30. Somnus, who had beaten Oasis Dream into second in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup on Sept. 6, was an unthreatening seventh.

The 4-length win of the 7-2 American Post over Charming Prince in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, formerly known as the Grand Criterium, was visually the most impressive of the day, but was made much easier by the withdrawal of antepost favorite Diamond Green, again because of the ground. Victory in the 7-furlong contest for the Criquette Head-Maarek-trained son of Sadler's Wells was the sixteenth Group 1 or Grade 1 triumph this year for Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm homebreds.

Breeding held sway in the Prix Marcel Boussac for juvenile fillies as well. By Storm Cat out of Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre winner Coup de Genie, the victorious Denebola is a Niarchos Family half sister to Glia from the family of Machiavellian and Exit To Nowhere. Her short neck win at 9.10-1 over Green Noon stamps her as a prime candidate for next year's fillies' Guineas, which her trainer Pascal Bary missed so narrowly with Six Perfections at Newmarket and the Curragh.

Among the vanquished in the Boussac was the 2-1 choice Necklace, the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes winner who came home tenth, another victim of the all-devouring ground.

And it was the ground that claimed Ascot Gold Cup winner Mr Dinos and 12-time group race winner Persian Punch in the Prix du Cadran. The British invaders came home sixth and eighth respectively as the 10.40-1 Westerner romped to a 5-length score over Germinis.

There were 53 lengths separating first from ninth in the Cadran with the last place Illumbe distanced. That is the sort of thing that happens when sunshine turns a soggy racecourse into a gluepot.