09/29/2006 12:00AM

Mandesha takes on Alexandrova in Opera


PARIS - What the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has lost on Sunday, the Prix de l'Opera has gained.

The Big Three in the Arc - Deep Impact, Hurricane Run and Shirocco - have scared off some of the best fillies and mares in the world, but the 1 1/4-mile, $325,000 Prix de l'Opera has picked many of them up in what should be a brilliant renewal of a race that shapes up as a crucial prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

On the face of it, the Group 1 Opera looks like a duel between Prix Vermeille winner Mandesha and 3-time Oaks winner Alexandrova. The Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Mandesha is arguably the most versatile horse in Europe, having won group races this year at a mile, 1 1/8 miles, and 1 1/2 miles. With Christophe Soumillon in the saddle, she is taken to spring a minor upset over Alexandrova, the English, Irish, and Yorkshire Oaks winner who really would prefer 1 1/2 miles.

Her main danger in the Opera is Team Valor's South African-bred Irridescence. A 5-year-old, she beat older colts two back when taking the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin. Tough as nails, she will be a pacesetting factor under regular rider Weichong Marwing.

Ouija Board will skip the Opera to point to Newmarket's Oct. 14 Champion Stakes as a likely prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, while Alexander Goldrun has opted for Saturday's one-mile Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket. Three other fillies in the Opera, however, are all in with a chance. They are the ultra-consistent Satwa Queen, Group 1 Coronation Stakes winner Nannina, and the Luca Cumani-trained German Oaks winner Dionisia, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tejano Run.

Visionario, Holy Roman Emperor square off

The seven-furlong Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere worth $450,000 for juveniles looks like a clash between Visionario and Holy Roman Emperor. By Spinning World, the Andre Fabre-trained Visionario is a half-brother to last year's winter book Epsom Derby favorite Visindar. Unbeaten in three starts, Visionario cruised home last time over the course and distance in the Group 3 Prix La Rochette, and so has an edge over the Aidan O'Brien-trained Holy Roman Emperor, a Group 1 winner going six furlongs at the Curragh who wasfinished second last time behind leading European 2-year-old Teofilo in the seven-furlong Group 1 National Stakes. Vital Equine, the undefeated winner of the seven-furlong Group 2 Champagne Stakes at York on Sept. 9, is the main threat.

* As the winner of the Group 3 Prix d'Aumale, Poltava will get a lot of support in the $390,000 Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. Having won over a mile, the David Smaga trainee is the form horse, but a number of improving types may spoil her party. Team Valor's Sugar Baby Love, the best juvenile filly in Germany, is one of them, but the upset choice is Bal de la Rose, an undefeated Francois Rohaut-trained filly in form the provinvces who is on the improve.

o The five-furlong Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp may be France's champion sprint race, but only two of its 14 runners are trained in France, both of them, Biniou and Mister Chocolate, longshots under the care of Robert Collet. A lukewarm vote is cast for Amadeus Wolf, who is taken to overturn his two-length loss last time to Reverence in York's Nunthorpe Stakes.

* The withdrawal of Yeats from the 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran opens up the Group 1 marathon for Le Miracle, a German-bred son of Monsun trained by Walter Baltromei who won the 1 15/16-mile Group 3 Prix Gladiateur at Longchamp three weeks ago.