09/10/2010 3:17PM

Midday, Sariska meet again in Prix Vermille

Tom Keyser
Midday, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, will renew her rivalry with Sariska on Sunday at Longchamp in the Group 1, $444,000 Prix Vermeille.

Midday and Sariska renew their heated rivalry at Longchamp on Sunday when they clash in the Group 1, $444,000 Prix Vermeille, but the British raiders could have their hands full in the 1 1/2-mile filly and mare contest with the undefeated Sarafina.

The setting will be Arc Trial Day at Longchamp, with two other course and distance preps for the Oct. 3 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe also on tap. Sariska has beaten Midday in three of their four previous meetings, Midday winning last time in the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. Sariska, however, refused to race that day, so Midday’s victory comes attached with a very large asterisk. There is some feeling that the Michael Bell-trained Sariska is better at 12 furlongs than the Henry Cecil-trained Midday. Sariska beat her in both the English and Irish Oaks last year and also was second to Arc favorite Fame and Glory in the 1 1/2-mile Coronation Cup in June. Jamie Spencer will ride her, with Bell having worked her repeatedly in the gate of late with no ill effects. Tom Queally partners Midday.

But is the British pair up to the challenge of the Aga Khan’s Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Sarafina? The 3-year-old filly is perfect in just three races to date, her last two wins coming in the 1 1/4-mile Prix Saint-Alary and the 1 5/16-mile French Oaks. Her sire, Refuse to Bend, won the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes and her damsire is the stamina-influencing Darshaan, so there is good reason to believe she will stay 1 1/2 miles with Christophe Lemaire on board. Capable of an upset is the Andre Fabre-trained Plumania, winner last time of the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over three-time Arc runner-up Youmzain.

◗ The Group 2, $165,000 Prix Niel for 3-year-olds is the most informative of Arc preps as eight of its last 16 winners have subsequently triumphed in the big race. The Aga Khan’s Behkabad, a course and distance winner in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris on July 14, will start the favorite as Royer-Dupre gives Lemaire a leg up. A half-brother to last year’s Niel runner-up Carthage, Behkabad must turn back the challenge of Grand Prix de Paris second Planteur, the French Derby runner-up who is trained by Elie Lellouche and will be ridden by Anthony Crastus.

Yutaka Take is in Paris to take the reins on 1 1/4-mile Japanese 2000 Guineas winner Victoire Pisa. The Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Neo Universe colt failed as the favorite when third in the Japanese Derby but has had the Arc on his agenda since then.

◗ Chinchon, winner of Monmouth Park’s United Nations Stakes, returns in the Group 2, $165,000 Prix Foy for older horses, but not with the Arc in mind. Trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias is using this as a prep for the Canadian International, after which Chinchon will be aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Byword, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s Stakes two back and a good third to Rip Van Winkle last time in the Juddmonte International, tries 12 furlongs for the first time for trainer Andre Fabre, while a second Japanese invader, Nakayama Festa, steps up after upsetting Buena Vista in the 1 3/8-mile Takarazuka Kinen.