10/03/2002 11:00PM

Sulamani, 'Chaparral' favored in Arc


Paris, France. On the face of it, Sunday's $1,568,000 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe would appear to be little more than a match between its favored Derby winners Sulamani and High Chaparral.

And recent history suggests that the favorite will carry the day at Longchamp. The last seven Arc winners have all gone off as the public choice, with Peintre Celebre's victory in 1997 and Sakhee's last year the longest prices at 2.20-1 from a group which includes Lammtarra (2.10-1), Helissio (9-5), Sagamix (1-2), Montjeu (3-2) and Sinndar (3-2).

But this 81st edition of the Arc is unusual in more than one respect. First, it is missing some of the world's best mile and a half horses in Golan, Nayef, Pearly Shells and Ange Gabriel. Second, there are questions concerning both of the favorites.

Sulamani, the 7-4 choice of British bookies Ladbrokes, is the Pascal Bary-trained winner of the French Derby who will relish the good ground at Longchamp. His prep in the Prix Niel, however, must be considered inadequate as the snail's pace at which it was run resulted in a time of 3:12.80 at 1 1/2 miles on a day when Pearly Shells was setting a Prix Vermeille stakes record 2:26.00 for the same distance.

Moreover, he was beating only two inferior rivals in Gulf News and Morozov. In the French Derby, runner-up Act One did not stay the twelve furlongs, while third-place Simeon has failed in his next two starts.

Though a deserving favorite with Thierry Thulliez aboard, Sulamni is vulnerable. So too is Coolmore representative, High Chaparral.

The son of Sadler's Wells has not run since his Irish Derby victory on June 30. No matter what Aidan O'Brien has done with him at Ballydoyle of late, winning even a subpar Arc off a 14-week absence is a near impossibility.

O'Brien sounded a pessimistic note at Ascot last Saturday when he reminded listeners that High Chaparral had missed some time when struck with a midsummer virus. He was withdrawn from the Prix Niel because of a bad blood count and must be considered even more vulnerable than Sulamani, especially at his pinched 9-4 price.

So an upset may be in the making. It was the 37-1 filly Urban Sea who last sprung an Arc surprise in 1993, so perhaps it is time for another distaffer to grace the Arc winners' circle.

Ana Marie could be that filly, and she is the value play at her current Ladbrokes odds of 33-1.

The 3-year-old Philippe Demercastel-trained daughter of Anabaa is a model of consistency, having been third behind Arc absentee Bright Sky in the French Oaks and second behind Pearly Shells in the fast-run Vermeille. The reliable Davy Bonilla will be given a leg up by Demercastel , who points out that his Group 3 Prix Vanteaux winner "was unlucky in the Oaks and unsuited to the slow pace when second to Pearly Shells in the Prix de Malleret."

Ana Marie worked brilliantly on Wednesday. With Sensible serving as Sulamani's rabbit and Black Sam Bellamy providing the same service for High Chaparral, she will be assured of her required fast pace.

Two other fillies are also capable of an upset. Islington, redirected to the Arc from the Prix de l'Opera when her Michael Stoute-trained stablemate Golan was withdrawn, has annihilated top class filly company in the Yorkshire Oaks and the Nassau Stakes. Just behind her comes last year's Arc runner-up and recent Prix Foy winner Aquarelliste, a talented Danehill filly who would prefer a bit of cut in the ground.

Manhattan Cafe invades from Japan for trainer Futoshi Kojima, but he has not run since winning the two-mile Spring Tenno Sho on April 28. It would be a shock if he could duplicate El Condor Pasa's excellent second in the 1999 Arc.

Asian Heights is an improving, lightly raced 4-year-old son of Hernando trained by Geoff Wragg. He has won four of five starts but is stepping way up off his win last month in the Group 3 September Stakes.

Marienbard, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori for Godolphin, makes a nice dark horse at 9-1, but this two-time German Group 1 winner is no Sakhee.

Of the others, 2001 French Derby winner Anabaa Blue was behind Aquarelliste in the Prix Foy while Fair Mix is a Group 3 winner who prefers ten furlongs, and Foundation Spirit was recently beaten in Turkey. Falbrav from Italy and Boreal from Germany are both in over their heads.

Fillies dominated the Arc from 1979 to 1983. There was no hint of "the weaker sex" about Three Troikas, Detroit, Gold River, Akiyda or All Along. If Ana Marie does not add her name to that group, Islington or Aquarelliste could.