04/14/2008 12:00AM

Zarkava, Natagora impress


Zarkava and Natagora have confirmed their 1000 Guineas potential with a certain style. Zarkava breezed to victory in Sunday's Group 3 Prix de la Grotte at Longchamp, and Natagora proved an equally convincing winner of the listed Prix Imprudence at Maisons-Laffitte on Monday.

The winner of last October's Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac by 2 1/2 lengths from Conference Call, the 7-10 Zarkava beat that same filly by the same margin in the $126,000 Prix de la Grotte, accelerating at the push of rider Christophe Soumillon's button to leave her six rivals floundering. The time for the mile on heavy ground was 1:44.70, 3.60 seconds faster than was recorded a half-hour later by the improving Freddy Head-trained colt Tamayuz in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau.

Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre and owner the Aga Khan are likely to keep Zarkava in France for her classic season, with the French 1000 Guineas at Longchamp on May 11 and the French Oaks at Chantilly on June 8 her likely targets.

Natagora will now be heading back to Newmarket, scene of her Oct. 5 win in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, for the 1000 Guineas on May 4. The Pascal Bary-trained filly cruised to a 1 1/2-length victory under Christophe Lemaire in the Imprudence over Group 3 winner Modern Look, covering the straight seven furlongs on heavy ground in 1:29.90 as the 4-5 favorite.

In the 1000 Guineas, she is likely to run into the winner of Wednesday's Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes, a seven-furlong Newmarket prep for the one-mile fillies classic. Spinning Lucy, a Barry Hills-trained listed race winner at Newmarket in November, and Nijoom Dubai, absent since winning the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, head the field. Also running is Albabilia, winner of last August's Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes. She is returning to England following a dull ninth in the listed Zabeel Mile at Nad Al Sheba on Feb. 28.