10/07/2001 11:00PM

Triumphant Arc for Sakhee


PARIS - Sakhee placed his name among the easy winners of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with a handy six-length victory at Longchamp Sunday.

His 2-1 win not only affirmed that he is in the same class as Fantastic Light, his Godolphin stablemate, and Galileo, but it also prompted speculation that he may forgo the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 20 in favor of the Breeders' Cup Turf a week later.

In his previous start, Sakhee, a 4-year-old, was a seven-length winner of the 1 5/16-mile Group 1 Juddmonte Internation-al. His victory in the Arc, at 1 1/2 miles, may convince his breeder and principal owner, Hamdan al-Maktoum, not to have him cut back to the 10 furlongs of the Champion Stakes, which is sponsored by the Emirate of Dubai.

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford seemed to echo that sentiment when he responded to Sheikh Hamdan's hope that Sakhee would recover quickly enough to run in the Champion. "Let's let the dust settle after this one," he said, suggesting that there are players on the Godolphin team who would prefer seeing Sakhee at Belmont Park.

There was little dust to kick up at Longchamp on Sunday, however. Even with the sticky going, Sakhee was in his element.

"He is unbeatable," crowed winning rider Frankie Dettori, who was winning the 100th Group/Grade 1 race of his career. "He would beat Fantastic Light."

But Dettori would not compare Sakhee to Dubai Millennium, who remains, he said, the best horse he has ever ridden.

Always well placed, Sakhee assumed command at the head of the stretch, 2 1/2 furlongs from home. He went quickly clear and gave runner-up Aquarelliste, who had been trapped on the rail most of the way, no chance once Dominique Boeuf was able to set her free.

Neither was Sagacity a threat in spite of his fast finish on the outside after leading only two horses into the straight. A half-brother to 1998 Arc winner Sagamix, he finished third, a length behind Aquarelliste.

Sakhee traveled the 1 1/2 miles in 2:36.10 on ground that Kieren Fallon, the rider of fourth-place Golan, termed "the worst I have ever ridden on." He is Godolphin's first Arc winner, although his trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, also trained Lammtarra to win here in 1995 for Saeed al-Maktoum, the son of Maktoum al-Maktoum.

It was Godolphin's 11th Group 1 score of 2001 and 77th in the nine years of the stable's existence.

Sulk takes Prix Marcel Boussac

Dettori, who won three Group 2 races at Longchamp on Saturday, was also successful Sunday aboard the 11-1 Sulk in the one-mile Prix Marcel Boussac for juvenile fillies, one of the five other Group 1 contests on the card. A head winner over Danseuse d'Etoile, Sulk had won only one previous race. Trainer John Gosden credited the addition of blinkers as the key to taking her mind off the many distractions that Longchamp presents on Arc day.

Magnier doubles his fun

John and Susan Magnier appeared in the winner's circle twice, first when the John Hammond-trained Imperial Beauty surged along the rail to win the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp by a half-length over Bahamian Pirate.

She paid 7-2 as part of an entry with Dietrich (7th) and Ishiguru (10th); Hammond's other runner, the 2-1 favorite Nuclear Debate, was eighth. The time for the five furlongs was 1:00.30.

The Magniers also won the seven-furlong Grand Criterium with Rock of Gibraltar. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Rock of Gibraltar produced devastating speed to defeat Bernebeau by a three-length margin that could have been twice that if rider Michael Kinane had so desired.

* The Prix de l'Opera failed to turn up any candidates for the Breeders' Cup. The 1 1/4-mile race was won by the 6-1 Terre a Terre, who took the measure of Mot Juste by 1 1/2 lengths. Filly and Mare Turf possible Crystal Music was sixth as the 2-1 choice, while Banks Hill was withdrawn by Andre Fabre because of the ground. However, she is still under serious consideration for either the Mile or the Filly and Mare Turf.

* With American strikes on Afghanistan beginning minutes after the Arc started at 11:30 Eastern, United Arab Emirates vice-president Maktoum al-Maktoum, UAE defense minister Mohammed al-Maktoum, and Dubai finance minister Hamdan al-Maktoum, were whisked away to the airport to return home. Before departing, Sheikh Mohammed announced that next year's UAE Derby will be lengthened from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles in an effort to better determine a Godolphin horse that can stay the Kentucky Derby distance.