European Report (Cont.)

Another upset win for the provinces came in the second group race, the Prix de l'Opera (Fr-I) for fillies and mares at 10 furlongs. Victory went to Terre a Terre and Eric Libaud, training his first group I winner, and jockey Christophe Soumillon, who came storming down the outside to win by 1 1/2 lengths from Mot Juste with English-trained favorite Crystal Music sixth. The field was reduced by one when Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) probable Banks Hill was withdrawn.

"She may go to stud now," said Libaud of Terre a Terre. "She prefers this ground and needs to be held up. Christophe rode her well."

The Prix de l'Abbaye (Fr-I), over the straight five furlongs in the infield, was won by trainer John Hammond, as expected, but it wasn't 2-1 favorite Nuclear Debate who did the business. Instead, it was Imperial Beauty, less than 4-1 as part of a three-horse Michael Tabor/John Magnier entry, but 28-1 on her own.

Under Yutaka Take, Imperial Beauty won by a half-length over two British runners, Bahamian Pirate and Pipalong, and may be off to stud now, to be bred to Danehill. "She's done what she set out to do, win a group I," said Coolmore head John Magnier.

Hammond said the 5-year-old daughter of Imperial Ballet hadn't been "at the top of her game for one reason or another this year and she certainly hasn't had her ground. We gave her some time off, she loves Longchamp, and it all came right today."

Dettori collected his penultimate group I victory when the John Gosden-trained Sulk came again to deny Danseuse d'Etoile by a head over the Prix Marcel Boussac's mile for juvenile fillies. Sulk broke her maiden at her third asking last month at Salisbury and, with the deteriorating ground, was supplemented into the Boussac by owner James Wigan along with Starfan while Gosden's two intended runners were withdrawn.

"She looks at everything at home--shadows, leaves--so we popped a visor on today and it made a huge difference," Gosden said. "Supplementing her was a bold move...I'm lucky I have brave owners. Crystal Music just floundered in the ground earlier, but during the l'Abbaye, they took away the false rail and it made a big difference. A drying track at Longchamp is tough on horses. She'll be trained for the Oaks (Eng-I) next year."

After being beaten in Doncaster's Champagne Stakes (Eng-II), the O'Brien-trained Rock of Gibraltar returned to form with a scintillating win in the Grand Criterium over seven furlongs for 2-year-olds. Owned in partnership by Susan Magnier and Sir Alex Ferguson, coach of England's most potent soccer club, Manchester United, Rock of Gibraltar came home three lengths in front after Michael Kinane had kicked the son of Danehill 10 lengths clear at midstretch. The race finished at Longchamp's second winning post, a fact which may have been overlooked by the rider when he eased down the winner.

"We were worried about the ground, but I couldn't believe how well Michael was going," said Ferguson. "I was just saying, 'go on, go on.' "

On Oct. 6, Dettori came close to sweeping the four group II races on the card. His mount in the Prix Dollar, probable favorite Ekraar, was scratched, but he won the other three. Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Moon Queen got the ball rolling in the Prix de Royallieu (Fr-II), beating odds-on Mare Nostrum, followed by Godolphin's China Visit holding off even-money favorite Jim and Tonic in the Prix du Rond-Point (Fr-II). To cap it all, Godolphin's Wareed relegated 5-4 favorite Walking Around to fourth as Dettori romped home by four lengths in the Prix Hubert de Chaudenay (Fr-II).

Heavy rain during the afternoon rendered the going worse than the official "very soft," and it proved extremely difficult to make up ground in the straight. Perhaps realizing this, Dettori took all three winners right to the front out of the gate and never looked back.