06/05/2008 11:00PM

Zarkava heads French Oaks


Zarkava, unbeaten in four races, will be a short-priced favorite in the Prix de Diane, or French Oaks, at 1 5/16 miles at Chantilly on Sunday.

Owned by the Aga Khan, Zarkava has looked unbeatable so far, but her career is very one-dimensional. All the filly's wins have been in one-mile races at Longchamp. Now she faces a new distance and a new course.

Ridden as usual by Christophe Soumillon, she won the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) last month, defeating second-place Goldikova, who will oppose her again, and third-place Halfway to Heaven, who went on to win the Irish 1000 Guineas.

Goldikova will appreciate the longer trip. She came to challenge with a furlong to run and, though no match, kept on steadily to the end.

Alain de Royer-Dupre, who trains Zarkava, has three more representatives among the 13 runners: Leo's Starlet, Belle et Celebre, and Sanjida. Sanjida, who has twice run third in a Group 3 this year, will make the pace for the favorite.

Royer-Dupre has booked Frankie Dettori, who won the Diane last year on West Wind, to ride the unbeaten Leo's Starlet. A Galileo filly, Leo's Starlet won her first two races on the all-weather at Deauville. She transferred successfully to soft turf when she won the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre over the Diane distance at Saint-Cloud on May 1.

The two Irish challengers, Kitty Matcham and Prima Luce, are Group 3 winners who should benefit from running beyond a mile for the first time.