Won last year by Gleneagles before his dramatic demotion after a stewards’ enquiry, the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere is the juvenile showpiece at Longchamp on Arc day.
Often a pointer to the following year’s Guineas in France, Britain and Ireland, the race attracts leading prospects from around Europe and is usually a target for the most powerful yards. The likes of Andre Fabre for France and Aiden O’Brien for Ireland regularly provide leading contenders with O’Brien in particular having a strong record in the race.
Defeat for Gleneagles last October handed the race to Criquette Head-Mareek’s Full Mast, with Andre Fabre’s Territories awarded second place. Fabre’s colt went on to chase home Gleneagles in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, whilst O’Brien’s horse has become this season’s leading three-year-old miler.
Established in 1853 the race was originally named the Grand Criterium. Run over varying distances through the years, the decision was made in 2001 to bring the race back to seven furlongs, and in 2003 was given its present name in memory of Jean-Luc Lagardere, a prominent figure in French racing.
In the early part of the 21st century Ballydoyle gained a stranglehold on the event with five victories from 2001 to 2006. Rock of Gibraltar was a sensational winner in 2001. Ridden by Mick Kinane, he showed incredible acceleration to storm clear of the opposition for an easy success. One of the modern-day greats, he was dominant as a three-year-old, winning seven consecutive Group 1s including the English and Irish Guineas’.
Richard Fahey and Richard Hannon Senior brought recent success in the race for Britain with Wootton Bassett and Olympic Glory. Sadly for Fahey his sensational juvenile, who went through 2010 undefeated, was never the same at three and was retired after a poor performance in the Haydock Sprint Cup.
Hannon’s Olympic Glory did manage to build on his successful juvenile campaign. Tried at the highest level, he won the QEII as a three-year-old, and at four took the Lochinge and the Prix De La Foret back at Longchamp.
The betting for Sunday’s Lagardere is dominated by British and Irish challengers, with Aidan O’Brien’s Johannes Vermeer currently favourite. With such a wealth of talent at Ballydoyle it’s always difficult to predict just who will turn-up on the day. He currently has seven entered; with Shogun and Vermeer more likely than not to make the start. The former, a colt by Fastnet Rock, will appreciate the better ground having struggled in the mud behind Jim Bolger’s Herald The Dawn last time.
Bolger’s colt is also an intended runner on Sunday having chased home the highly-touted Air Force Blue last time. The son of New Approach looks a classy type and is sure to run a huge race.
Richard Hannon has Ventura Storm entered, and the son of Zoffany could be an interesting contender. It’s been one hell of a season for the sire with Foundation his latest high-profile success last weekend at Newmarket. Hannon’s colt is two from three and was visually very impressive last time at Salisbury. This is a huge step up in class, but any Hannon contender has to be respected.
Another Brit who’s having a season to remember is Hugo Palmer. He has a talented juvenile in Galileo Gold, who was last seen winning the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. He defeated Ibn Malik that day, and although he has since been thrashed by a potential superstar in Emotionless, the form remains strong. Owner’s Al Shaqab Racing will be hoping for a successful day, and this fella is not without a chance in what looks an ultra-competitive renewal.
Finally the home team look set to depend on Andre Fabre to repel the overseas invaders. Cloth Of Stars appears his leading contender. Godolphin came close last year with Territories, and this son of Sea The Stars was impressive last time at the track over a mile. His breeding suggests he’ll develop into a Derby horse, so whether he possesses enough speed to win this is questionable. He does however look a classy contender.
If the fancied runners all arrive at the start, this could be a real thriller, with many of these developing into high-class three-year-olds.