06/27/2008 12:00AM

Rain may boost Soldier of Fortune


Soldier of Fortune can confirm his status as the world's leading older horse at 1 1/2 miles when he takes on eight accomplished rivals in a highly contentious renewal of the Group 1, $630,000 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on Sunday.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained 4-year-old son of Galileo has won 4 of 6 starts at the Grand Prix distance, most recently when landing the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom on June 6. He acts on any kind of ground but may be best on soft, upon which he won the Irish Derby by nine lengths exactly a year ago. With rain forecast in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud over the weekend, Soldier of Fortune may be in his element.

As Johnny Murtagh is staying home in Ireland to ride the O'Brien-trained Alessandro Volta in the Irish Derby on Sunday, Soldier of Fortune will be reunited with Christophe Soumillon, who rode him to win the Group 2 Prix Noailles at Longchamp in April 2007.

Trainer Richard Gibson has called this Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud "the best 1 1/2-mile race run in the world since the Arc." He should know as he has trained Doctor Dino to win three big races around the globe since last September - the 1 3/8-mile Man o' War Stakes at Belmont, the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, and the 1 1/2-mile Grand Prix de Chantilly last time on June 1. Doctor Dino's chances will be enhanced by the presence of Olivier Peslier in the saddle.

Last year's Arc runner-up, Youmzain, was only three-quarters of a length behind Soldier of Fortune in the Coronation Cup but always seems to find one better than himself. Grand Prix de Paris winner Zambezi Sun was just a half-length behind Doctor Dino at Chantilly but needs good to firm ground to show his best. George Strawbridge's St. Leger winner Lucarno would prefer soft ground but also prefers longer than 12 furlongs, while the Andre Fabre-trained Getaway, a brave fourth in last year's Arc, was only fifth in the Coronation Cup, clearly uncomfortable with that difficult course. The Monsun 5-year-old should do better at the virtually level Saint-Cloud, but not well enough to pin back Soldier of Fortune.

* While the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the Irish Derby will both provide clues to the Oct. 5 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, there will also be long-term interest in the $2.3 million Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin in Japan on Sunday when Arc hopeful Meisho Samson will be tested in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 1 contest. The winner of last year's Japanese Derby and the 1 1/4-mile Autumn Tenno Sho, Meisho Samson was a sharp second last month in the two-mile Spring Tenno Sho. He will be challenged by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes prospect Roc de Cambes, Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen winner Admire Aura, and last fall's Japanese St. Leger winner Asakusa Kings.