09/15/2008 12:00AM

Zarkava still unbeaten after Vermeille score


Zarkava confirmed favoritism for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Sunday as she remained undefeated with an impressive victory in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille. Meanwhile, Vision d'Etat maintained his perfect record in winning the Group 2 Prix Niel as Zambezi Sun returned to form with a victory in the Group 2 Prix Foy.

Returning from a 14-week layoff following her handy score in the French Oaks on June 8, Zarkava was sent out at 1-2 odds and slammed a classy field in the $425,000 Vermelle despite missing the break and spotting the 12-runner field four lengths at the start. Christophe Soumillon kept his cool, however, as he guided her into striking position entering the 2 1/2-furlong stretch. The Aga Khan's Zamindar filly responded with her usual burst of speed, leading 60 yards from the line to win going away by two lengths over Dar Re Mi while clocking a fast time of 2:26.00 for the 1 1/2 miles on good ground. Treat Gently was a half-length back in third with Michita fourth, beaten four lengths.

In recording her sixth victory without a loss in this, her first try beyond 1 5/16 miles, the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Zarkava has claimed the pole position to become the first filly to win the Arc since Urban Sea in 1992 and the first of her sex to pull off the Vermeille-Arc double since Three Troikas in 1979.

Vision d'Etat, the latest version of the people's horse, had to work a lot harder to win his Arc prep than did Zarkava. Absent since his narrow head victory in the French Derby on June 1, the Eric Libaud-trained son of Chichicastenango outdueled the late blooming Ideal World by a nose to land the $184,000 Prix Niel for 3-year-olds with Arlington Million hero Ioritz Mendizabal at the controls. The first two were 1 1/2 lengths clear of Centennial in third as the 11-10 choice Vision d'Etat clocked the 12 furlongs in 2:27.40. Purchased for just $52,000 at the December 2006 Arqana Sale, Vision d'Etat was also winning in his first try at 1 1/2 miles.

Not so Zambezi Sun, whose five-length victory in the 2007 Grand Prix de Paris marked him as potentially something special. Juddmonte's Pascal Bary-trained son of Dansili has since failed to live up to that promise, but in winning for the first time since then in the $184,000 Prix Foy he appears to be back on track. Ridden by Stephane Pasquier, the 9-10 chance Zambezi Sun took this Arc trial for older horses by a half-length from Godolphin's pacesetting Schiaparelli, who was making his first start since defeating Champs Elysees by 1 3/4 lengths in San Siro's Gran Premio del Jockey Club on Oct. 14. The winning time in the Foy was 2:28.80.

Duke of Marmalade may skip Arc

Aidan O'Brien hinted on Saturday that his five-time Group 1 winner Duke of Marmalade might skip the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and instead prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic in a 1 3/16-mile allowance race on the Polytrack course at Great Leighs Racecourse near London on the evening of Sept. 27.

Ladbrokes new odds for the Arc are Zarkava 7-4, Soldier of Fortune 4-1, Vision d'Etat 8-1, Getaway 8-1, and Youmzain 10-1. Duke of Marmalade is unquoted by Ladbrokes but is as low as 5-1 with other bookies.