10/05/2003 11:00PM

Soggy going yields surprises on Arc undercard


PARIS - So sticky was the ground at Longchamp on Sunday that it is difficult to surmise the impact made by the five Group 1 races that served as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe undercard.

The Prix de l'Opera, a 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares that went in 2:08.00, was taken by the 18-1 Zee Zee Top. A Michael Stoute-trained daughter of Zafonic, she won for the first time since taking a listed race at York in May. Although Zee Zee Top is through for the year, unlucky runner-up Yesterday and third-place Bright Sky will both be heading for Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 25.

Yesterday met trouble entering the long stretch and was last of 10 at the quarter pole. Her late run fell a head short, adding that result to luckless seconds in the English Oaks and the Prix Vermeille along with a victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas.

Bright Sky looked like the winner a furlong out and was game to be third, a neck behind Yesterday. Bright Sky will relish the fast ground at Santa Anita. Meanwhile, Ana Marie hated the ground in fifth but is a possibility for the Hong Kong Cup.

Oasis Dream was supposed to have used the five-furlong Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp as his final prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile. However, he was withdrawn because of the ground and will head directly to Santa Anita for the Mile.

In his absence, the Abbaye went to ex-handicapper Patavellian (20-1), who held off the late rush of The Trader (36-1) by a length, getting the straight five panels in 59.30 seconds. Somnus, who had beaten Oasis Dream into second in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup on Sept. 6, was an unthreatening seventh.

The four-length win of American Post (7-2) over Charming Prince in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, formerly known as the Grand Criterium, was visually the most impressive of the day, but it was made much easier by the withdrawal of early favorite Diamond Green, again because of the ground. The victory in the seven-furlong contest by American Post, a son of Sadler's Wells trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, was the 16th Group 1 or Grade 1 triumph this year for Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm homebreds.

Breeding also held sway in the Prix Marcel Boussac for juvenile fillies. By Storm Cat out of Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre winner Coup de Genie, the victorious Denebola is a Niarchos Family half-sister to Glia, from the family of Machiavellian and Exit to Nowhere. Denebola's short neck win at 9-1 over Green Noon stamps her as a prime candidate for next year's fillies' Guineas, which her trainer, Pascal Bary, missed so narrowly with Six Perfections at Newmarket and The Curragh.

Among the vanquished in the Boussac was the 2-1 choice Necklace, the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes winner who came home 10th, another victim of the all-devouring ground.

And it was the ground that claimed Ascot Gold Cup winner Mr Dinos and 12-time group-race winner Persian Punch in the 2 1/2-mile Prix du Cadran. The British invaders came home sixth and eighth, respectively, as the 10-1 Westerner romped to a five-length score over Germinis.

Fifty-three lengths separated first from ninth in the Cadran, with Illumbe in last place. That is the sort of thing that happens when sunshine turns a soggy course into a gluepot.