06/02/2008 12:00AM

Vision d'Etat caps fabled journey

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It's a long way from Les Sables d'Olonne to Chantilly, but Vision d'Etat completed the journey on Sunday with a stunning victory in the $2.3 million Prix du Jockey-Club, or French Derby.

A 7-1 shot, the undefeated Vision d'Etat held off the late charge of Famous Name by a head after running down the filly Natagora, who battled on gamely to be third, 1 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up after leading at the quarter-pole.

The favored High Rock, who looked menacing in midstretch, faded to fourth, three lengths behind the winner, who covered the 1 5/16 miles in 2:08.60 on soft ground. It was another seven lengths back to Thewayyouare in 10th, with Sheikh Mohammed's latest high-priced purchase, Democrate, way back in 18th, beaten 27 3/4 lengths.

Trainer Eric Libaud started Vision d'Etat off in a maiden at lowly Les Sables d'Olonne in western France, not far from Nantes, on Sept. 20 in a 1o1/4-mile race. Easy scores in allowance races at Fontainebleau and Saint-Cloud followed, before the son of two-time French Group 1 winner Chichicastenango was moved up to win the listed 1 1/4-mile Prix de Suresnes at Chantilly on April 24.

With Ioritz Mendizabal aboard on Sunday, Vision d'Etat, who has had at least five weeks' rest between each of his five starts, was never worse than fifth. He led at the eighth pole and gave Libaud and owner Jacques Detre the biggest wins of their careers.

By finishing second from the disadvantageous 17 post, Famous Name boosted the hopes of his Dermot Weld-trained stablemate Casual Conquest, who on Monday was supplemented to Saturday's Epsom Derby, for which he is the 5-2 favorite.

Natagora lost nothing in defeat. In fact, the reputation of the Pascal Bary-trained winner of the 1000 Guineas was probably enhanced by virtue of her gallant effort in an above-average French Derby. Bary said she would be dropped back to a mile for her next start against older fillies and mares in the Group 1 Prix d'Astarte at Deauville on Aug. 3.

As for Vision d'Etat, the Irish Derby at the Curragh on June 29 is possibly next, but he is more likely to be given the traditional French summer vacation before returning in the fall to take aim at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Earlier, last year's Man 'o War winner, Doctor Dino, came on late to beat Zambezi Sun by a half-length at 6-5 in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly, stopping the clock in 2:35.40 for the 1 1/2 miles. Freddy Head saddled his two-time Group 1 winner Marchand d'Or to a 5-1 neck victory in the five-furlong Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene, and Modern Look confirmed his 7-10 favoritism with an impressive three-length score in the one-mile Group 2 Prix de Sandringham.

Japan: Deep Sky wins derby

Deep Sky closed with a late rush to win the $3.2 million Tokyo Yushun, or Japanese Derby, in Tokyo on Sunday, establishing himself as the leading Japanese 3-year-old this side of Belmont Stakes challenger Casino Drive.

In victory, the Mitsugo Kon-trained son of Agnes Tachyon was following up on his win three weeks ago in the NHK Mile Cup, thus landing the same double as King Kamehameha four years ago. Sent off as the 5-2 favorite in the field of 18, he had 1 1/2 lengths on the 48-1 runner-up, Smile Jack, with Black Shell three-quarters of a length farther back in third. The 5-1 second choice, Meiner Charles, was fourth, a neck behind Black Shell. Deep Sky and his rider, Hirofumi Shii, who had won last year's Japanese Derby aboard the filly Vodka, covered the 1o1/2 miles on firm ground in 2:26.70.

Still 15th entering the 2 1/2-furlong stretch, Deep Sky uncorked the final three-eighths in 34.20 seconds to secure the victory. He is now likely to have a long rest before preparing for a possible tilt at the Japan Cup on Nov. 30.