09/08/2006 12:00AM

Three-star showdown in Prix Foy


Hurricane Run, Shirocco, and Pride will stage their own little mini-Arc at Longchamp on Sunday as they prepare for the real thing in the Group 2, $165,000 Prix Foy, one of three course and distance Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe preps being served up at the Parisian track.

If there has ever been a more competitive Group 2 race it escapes memory. In Hurricane Run, the Foy has the defending Arc champ and current Arc favorite. His Andre Fabre-trained stablemate, Shirocco, has followed his Breeders' Cup Turf heroics with victories this season in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes and the Group 1 Coronation Cup.

Pride, a 6-year-old Peintre Celebre mare trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, won last year's Foy when she had Shirocco 4 1/2 lengths back in third. More recently, on June 25, she caught Hurricane Run on the line to win the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over the same 1 1/2 miles as the Foy.

Although Hurricane Run is coming off a July 29 victory over Electrocutionist and Heart's Cry in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, there is reason to believe he may be vulnerable on Sunday, despite the fact that he will be reunited with Kieren Fallon. He will not get the softish ground Fabre was looking for, but then Shirocco and Pride would also prefer some give in the ground. The good going at Longchamp will produce a level playing field on which no horse will have an excuse.

Shirocco, who beat Ouija Board by 1 3/4 lengths in the June 2 Coronation Cup, gets a lukewarm vote with Christophe Soumillon on board. Fabre will employ Hurricane Run's entrymate, Near Honor, as a rabbit while the five-runner field is completed by the supplementary entry Divine Story, a 2-for-22 no hoper.

The Group 2, $165,000 Prix Niel for 3-year-olds is as competitive if not quite as classy as the Foy. The Fabre-trained Rail Link, a course and distance winner of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris on July 14, is a still improving son of Dansili. He will be sternly challenged by a trio of British invaders. Youmzain, the winner of York's Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes, will run as part of a Khalid Abdullah entry with Rail Link. Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes winner Papal Bull goes for Michael Stoute, while Dragon Dancer, the game short head Epsom Derby runner-up, will be saddled by Geoff Wragg still looking for his maiden victory.

The very versatile Mandesha will put her talent on display in the $382,000 Prix Vermeille, a Group 1, 1 1/2-mile race that has been opened up this year to all fillies and mares. The winner of the listed 1 7/16-mile Prix Urban Sea in June, she next finished first in the 1 1/8-mile Group 3 Prix Chloe but was disqualified for interference. Last time she dropped down to a mile to take the Group 1 Prix d'Astarte at Deauvulle. The 3-year-old Mandesha is trying to follow in the footsteps of last year's Vermeille winner, Shawanda, who was also trained by Royer-Dupre for the Aga Khan.

Standing in her way are Montare, a Montjeu 4-year-old who has been second in her last three outings, all at the Group 2 level, and the John Hammond-trained Freedonia, who beat Montare by two lengths in Deauville's Prix de Pomone on Aug. 6.