07/30/2004 12:00AM

Lively matchup in Prix d'Astarte


Nebraska Tornado and Denebola will hook up in another highly competitive edition of the Prix d'Astarte at Deauville on Sunday. The straight mile for fillies and mares has been upgraded to Group 1 status this year and its purse raised to $240,000.

After winning the French Oaks and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at 3, the intractable Nebraska Tornado, a daughter of Storm Cat trained by Andre Fabre, has been fifth and fourth in a pair of Group 1's this spring. If jockey Gary Stevens can straighten her out, she can prevail. Denebola, last year's French juvenile filly champ, was third in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte and second in a listed race last out. Trainer Pascal Bary could have Denebola, also a Storm Cat filly, rounding to form at the right time.

Trainer Mick Channon's cross-channel invader, Majestic Desert, second to the then-undefeated Attraction in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, could surprise.

Six Perfections, second to Bright Sky in last year's Astarte for Bary, was pulled out of Sunday's race in anticipation of a defense of her Prix Jacques le Marois title on Aug. 15.