The British set to storm the Grand Prix de Paris, writes Nigel Howard
Bastille Day is France’s Fête Nationale. It is celebrated on 14 July when, on the same day back in 1789, revolutionaries stormed the infamous Paris Bastille jail thus triggering what is considered the start of the French Revolution. French racing’s offering to this great occasion is the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, run over 2400 metres (1m4f) at Longchamp on Tuesday evening.
The Grand Prix de Paris forms the final leg of the French Classic programme which in 2005 was controversially restructured by reducing the distance of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) to 1m2½f from 1m4f and increasing the distance of this event to 1m4f from 1m2f. The net result has been that it is the Grand Prix de Paris that some now consider to be the real French Derby and indeed all but one of the declared runners bypassed the Prix du Jockey Club to run here.
Whatever the pros and cons of the restructuring programme, the race has thrown up some pretty useful performers over recent years including Flintshire for Khalid Abdullah in 2013, Montmartre for the Aga Khan in 2008 and perhaps most famously another Abdullah homebred, Rail Link, in 2006, who sensationally went on to defeat the “unbeatable” Japanese superstar Deep Impact in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe of the same year.
Only seven go to post for this renewal and at first glance it seems unlikely that a future Arc winner lies under the hood. However, with runners from three different countries, some with strong classic form, the race offers a great opportunity for the handicapper to compare the merits of the European classic generation.
With a record thirteen victories in the race, Andre Fabre saddles the probable favourite in the undefeated AMPERE. A likeable son of Galileo, he won the Prix Hocquart (Group 2) over 2200m (1m3f) at Longchamp back in May. Staying on well under Mickael Barzalona, he defeated the Aidan O’Brien trained Cape Clear Island by 1 length with, further back in third, the Aga Khan owned Canndal, recent second in a Group 1 at Belmont Park. That was only his second start and he would seemingly have plenty of scope. His trainer already has two classic winners in his yard in the shape of Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Make Believe and Prix du Jockey Club winner New Bay. AMPERE has obviously been laid out for this race and therefore must have strong winning claims.
Michael Delzangles saddles the Wildenstein Stable-owned VENGEUR MASQUE, a progressive son of Monsun and runaway winner of a conditions event over 1m4f at Compiègne back in June. This is clearly a big step up in class, but he defeated the odds on favourite and highly regarded Criquette Head-trained Clariden that day, himself destined for this race until that defeat. He is clearly on the upgrade but still has a lot to prove.
Supplemented at a cost of €43,200, undefeated ERUPT represents the Niarchos Family whose famous silks were last carried to victory in this race back in 2004 by subsequent Arc winner Bago when run over 1m2f. Trained by Francis-Henri Graffard, this son of super sire Dubawi ran a fine race when winning the Group 2 Prix de Lys (1m4f) at Chantilly on French Oaks day in June. He was given an enterprising ride by the Niarchos-retained jockey Stephane Pasquier who dictated the race from the front and ran out a neck winner from the Andre Fabre trained Sarasin. He is obviously improving and remains unexposed. However, the Fabre horse he beat was, on paper, not of AMPERE’S quality so plenty of improvement will be required in order to lift this coveted prize.
SILVERWAVE is looking to restore his reputation after a disappointing run in the Prix du Jockey Club when finishing ninth of the fourteen runners. He was undefeated until that race having previously won the Prix la Force (Group 2) impressively at Longchamp over 1m2f on heavy going in May. A son of Silver Frost, his best form is with some give in the ground and as the sun continues to shine on Paris, he is likely to find underfoot conditions against him come Tuesday.
Crossing the channel and already with two big classic runs under the saddle is the William Haggis-trained STORM THE STARS. He has twice finished behind Jack Hobbs when third in the English Derby and second in the Irish equivalent. He apparently thrives on his racing hence the supplementary entry here. A bold showing is surely on the cards and he comes into this race as the flag-bearer for the English classic generation. Wherever he finishes will provide a true yard stick to the value of form this race has to offer.
Fellow British challenger BALIOS makes a swift reappearance after an impressive 1¼ length victory over Mr Singh in the Group 2 King George VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Trained by David Simcock, this son of Shamardal is certainly going the right way, and Mr Singh franked the form when he scooted home in a Newmarket Group 3 on Thursday. He looks set to run a big race.
Finally, a Group 1 contest wouldn’t be the same without a representative from the mighty Ballydoyle stable and they field the totally unexposed ARCHANGEL RAPHAEL. A winner at Fairyhouse over 1m4f last time, this son of Montjeu has no real form of note and can only be judged on the basis that he is trained by Aidan O’Brien. How he figures in the betting on the day will surely be of great interest.
In summary, VENGEUR MASQUE and ERUPT are obviously on the upgrade but their bare form looks short of what might be needed to win this Group 1 contest.
With such an impressive record in the race it is hard to overlook the lightly raced AMPERE who could provide Andre Fabre with an incredible fourteenth victory in the race. The colt has obviously been held back for this event and the trainer has classic winners in his stable against which to judge his credentials.
However, not convinced of the French form on offer, I prefer to take a punt on the British duo, STORM THE STARS and BALIOS. The former already has solid classic form in the book and might still be improving whilst BALIOS’s Ascot run looks increasingly strong. A shame indeed it would be for the Brits to spoil the French National party but neither would it upset us much either!