09/11/2011 12:28PM

Sarafina tunes up for Arc by beating males in Prix Foy

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Sarafina won her third race in a row, bulling between horses deep in the stretch run to win the Prix Foy by a head over the Japanese horse Hiruno d’Amour and cement her position as one of the favorites for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in three weeks.

The Group 2 Prix Foy was one of three 1 1/2-mile  group stakes with Arc  implications on Sunday at Longchamp, where the going was on the soft side of good. Reliable Man bounced back from a sub-par performance in the Grand Prix de Paris to capture the Prix Niel for 3-year-olds, while Goldikova’s younger half-sister, Galikova, won her first Group 1 and first race at a distance as far as 12 furlongs in the Prix Vermeille to enter into the Arc conversation herself.

But the wonderful 4-year-old Sarafina, bred and owned by the Aga Khan, is the most proven of the bunch, having compiled a record of 4-1-2 from 7  Group 1 starts. In 2010, trainer Alain Royer-Dupre used the Vermeille as a prep race for the Arc, in which Sarafina finished a troubled third, but this year he chose the Foy, which is open to males, for Sarafina’s trial. Racing last of four much of the slow-paced trip, Sarafina was kept inside for the stretch run by jockey Christophe Lemaire, who urged his mount through a narrow opening between St. Nicholas Abbey and Hiruno d’Amour about a furlong out. Sarafina took it from there, accelerating nicely once clear to take the measure of Hiruno d’Amour. Stewards conducted an inquiry into the bumpy stretch run, but  no change was made to the result.

Galikova, meanwhile, might have earned a berth in the Arc with a 2 1/2-length win over Testosterone in the Vermeille, which is restricted to females. Trained, like Goldikova, by Freddie Head, Galikova had finished second to high-class Golden Lilac in her only previous Group 1 engagement, and her win Sunday came in her first start in a race as far as 1 1/2 miles. A bit slow to find her top stride in the stretch, Galikova did her best work in the race’s final furlong, pulling away late under strong urging from Olivier Peslier. An improving 3-year-old, Galikova will face much stronger opposition if she is indeed pointed to the Arc.

In the Prix Niel, Reliable Man returned to the form that won the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) in June, avenging a distant third-place finish to Meandre in the Grand Prix de Paris on July 14 by beating Meandre by two lengths in the Niel. The Niel is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race, and Reliable Man earned an automatic fees-paid berth in the BC Turf with his victory Sunday. Three-year-olds do not often come for the BC Turf, and a start in the Arc surely would be targeted in the near term.

Reliable Man, trained by Royer-Dupre and ridden by Gerald Mosse, got a perfect trip in the Niel, sitting a few lengths off the leaders in fourth while well in hand and out of traffic. Reliable Man picked up smoothly when the sprinting began about a quarter-mile out, went clear in the final furlong, and never was threatened. Meandre was within about a length of the winner in mid-stretch but could not match his acceleration and nearly was caught for second by Vadamar.

Excelebration takes Prix du Moulin

As long as he steers clear of the sensational Frankel, 3-year-old Excelebration wins races. A distant third to Frankel in the St. James’s Palace Stakes three races ago, Excelebration won the Hungerford Stakes in his most recent outing and beat Rio de la Plata by two lengths on Sunday at Longchamp to win a watered-down version of the Group 1 Prix du Moulin, a race that had been expected to attract the two best milers in France, Goldikova and Immortal Verse. Neither wound up starting, paving the way for the Marco Botti-trained Excelebration  to win at the Group 1 level for the first time. Excelebration was ridden to victory Sunday by Jamie Spencer.