06/10/2010 11:00PM

Sarafina, Deluxe too close to call


Sarafina and Deluxe renew their budding rivalry at Chantilly on Sunday in the Group 1, $970,000 Prix de Diane. At 1 5/16 miles, the French Oaks has produced numerous classy winners, among them in recent years Zarkava and Divine Proportions. Either Sarafina or Deluxe would be a worthy addition to the Oaks roll of honor, and they both have the pedigree to prove it despite being very lightly raced.

The pair finished one-two in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp on May 23 when Sarafina prevailed by a half-length. Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre for her breeder the Aga Khan, Sarafina is a daughter of Refuse to Bend from a Darshaan mare. She was making just her second start in the Saint-Alary. Further improvement is expected, but it is difficult to choose between her and Deluxe.

Deluxe was named by her owner/breeder Khalid Abdullah with a purpose. She is a Storm Cat half-sister to five Group 1 or Grade 1 winners in Banks Hill, Heat Haze, Intercontinental, Cacique, and Champs Elysees, as well as to the outstanding sire Dansili. Like all of her siblings, Deluxe appears to be something of a late developer and lost nothing but her unbeaten record when second in the Saint-Alary, which was her first try beyond a mile. Deluxe had previously won a maiden and allowance, so this will be just her fourth start. Maxime Guyon, perhaps the best young jockey in the world, retains the ride for trainer Andre Fabre.

In addition to Sarafina, Royer-Dupre will saddle two other Aga Khan fillies. Rosanara, the winner of the one-mile, Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac in October, must improve off her effort in the one-mile French 1000 Guineas, in which she was placed fourth. As a daughter of Sinndar, winner of the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Rosanara should appreciate the added distance. Valasyra will serve as a pacemaker for stablemates Sarafina and Rosanara.

Two Group 3 winners have dark-horse chances. Zagora is coming off a 2 1/2-length score in the 1 1/8-mile Prix Vanteaux. Sandbar won the 1 5/16-mile Prix Cleopatre.

A competitive running of the Group 3, $97,000 Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord for older horses at a mile features last year's French 1000 Guineas winner Elusive Wave and Sweet Hearth, the filly who split Varenar and Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret, but the choice is Fuisse, last year's French Derby runner-up who was a three-length winner of a one-mile listed race over Dalghar, the subsequent record-setting winner of the Group 3 Prix du Palais-Royal who will be running in the star-studded Queen Anne Stakes opening day at Royal Ascot.