10/05/2007 12:00AM

Soft grass ideal for Satwa Queen

EmailFive Group 1 races worth a total of $1.98 million on Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe card at Longchamp on Sunday make this the richest program in the history of French racing with a total of $3.9 million at stake in eight contests. The 1o1/4-mile $353,000 Prix de l'Opera, always a key signpost to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, tops the undercard, although it lacks the usual standouts like recent winners Mandesha, Alexander Goldrun, and Petrushka.

Satwa Queen, who split Mandesha and Alexandrova in last year's Opera, can go one better this time around. Trainer Jean de Roualle has been pointing her to this race all year with a judiciously paced three-race campaign that culminated with a victory in the 1 1/4-mile Group 2 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville. Satwa Queen, who will be ridden by Thierry Thulliez, is 5 for 5 on soft ground and will once again get her preferred surface on Sunday.

The enigmatic Vadapolina would offer her the sternest challenge if she runs to the form that won her a pair of Group 3s, but if she repeats her French Oaks eighth or her Prix Vermeille ninth she will be out of the picture. English Oaks winner Light Shift was only third, five lengths behind Peeping Fawn, when dropped to 1 1/4 miles for the Group 1 Nassau Stakes, while dual 1000 Guineas winner Finsceal Beo failed against older horses at the same distance when last of seven in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Mystic Lips, the five-length winner of the 1 3/8-mile German Oaks, was only fourth in the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Prix de la Nonette, while Legerete prefers 1 1/2 miles. Promising Lead, a Danehill 3-year-old from the family of the outstanding broodmare Hasili, is a lightly raced 10-furlong listed winner from the always dangerous Michael Stoute.

There are no Group 1 winners in either of the two juvenile races on the card, but both of them include a number of promising types. The one-mile $424,000 Prix Marcel Boussac for fillies features Laureldean Gale. A daughter of Grand Slam, Laureldean Gale was purchased by Godolphin after her second in the Group 3 Prix du Calvados to current 2000 Guineas favorite Proviso, and she will have jockey Frankie Dettori. But the preference is for Gipson Dessert, an undefeated Jean-Claude Rouget-trained daughter of Orientate who won a seven-furlong Deauville listed race last time and is proven on soft ground. Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes third-place finisher Mad About You and a pair of unbeaten allowance winners, Conference Call and Zarkava, all have the potential to win this.

Godolphin's Rahy colt Rio de la Plata is slated to go in the seven-furlong $494,000 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for colts, although the soft ground could work against him. Rio de la Plata won the Group 2 Vintage Stakes winner, and was second last time to New Approach in the Groupo1 National Stakes. Challenging are the first two from the Group 3 Prix La Rochette, Young Pretender and Shediak, and the first two from the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, Hatta Fort and Declaration of War. Shediak, an Andre Fabre-trained son of Selkirk, is the selection in a tight fit.

The chances of firm-ground specialists Benbaun and Dandy Man in the five-furlong $353,000 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp will be compromised by the soft ground, as will those of Kingsgate Native, the 2-year-old colt who won his maiden against older horses in the five-furlong Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York. The winner could be Beauty Is Truth, a 3-year-old Robert Collet-trained filly who won the five-furlong Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene at Chantilly in June on good to soft ground and has won on soft in the past.

Two-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats should relish the 2 1/2 miles of the $353,000 Prix du Cadran. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Yeats is riding the crest of a four-race winning streak that includes a narrow score over Scorpion last time in the 1o3/4-mile Group 1 Irish St. Leger. While Yeats has never cared for soft ground, he has a class edge on his opponents. They include Le Miracle, who was third to Yeats in the Ascot Gold Cup in June and in last year's Cadran as well.