Prix Chaudenay 2013 Preview / Tips
The Prix Chaudenay is the first of four Group 2's to be run on the Saturday of Longchamp's Arc weekend, and it's a staying race over a furlong shy of two miles for three year olds only.
Akin to a French St Leger, the Chaudenay traditionally brings together the best vintage stayers with those not quite quick enough to land one of the big middle distance Group 1's, the Prix du Jockey Club or the Grand Prix de Paris. And therein often lies the value...
Those horses which have run well at shorter distances generally make the market in the Chaudenay, but it's the proven stayers which come out on top more often than not. Indeed, seven of the last nine winners of the Chaudenay had run in the Prix de Lutece over course and distance four weeks earlier.
After two years where the winner did not exit the Lutece, last year saw a reversion to the recent norm, as Canticum - a neck second in the Lutece - reversed the form with Verema to win at a juicy 11/1. And that's an important point: it is not always the Lutece winner that prevails in the Chaudenay.
The main reasons for that are 1) the Lutece is a prep race whereas the Chaudenay is the big day, and 2) the Lutece is almost always run at a crawl followed by a sprint finish. In such circumstances, freak results can occur.
For instance, this year's favourite, Montclair, was way too far out of his ground and couldn't quite close the gap, eventually finishing third, two short necks behind the winner. The two that beat him vied for the lead throughout. With a more prominent position on Saturday I'd expect Montclair to see off his two vanquishers from the Lutece, even given a pedestrian gallop.
There is British interest in the race, as there is in most of the Group races across the Arc card. But it's been a terrible race for the channel-hoppers historically. The last winner from overseas was Wareed back in 2001, and before that Dick Hern's Family Friend, as far back as 1986.
Indeed, in the last ten years, seventeen British or Irish-trained horses have run in the Chaudenay, nine of them sent off 10/1 or shorter, and the best finish was third (three times). In the last seven years, there has been just one third placed finisher, from eleven runners, seven of which were 11/1 or shorter.
Of course, Hughie Morrison's Nearly Caught, the sole British raider this time, could win. But history doesn't support his case. Nor especially does his form profile: stepping up out of handicaps into a well contested Group 2 overseas.
No, this looks best left to the Lutece 1-2-3 of Valirann, Lucky Look, and Montclair. The last named is trained by Andre Fabre, who can lay claim to a staggering eleven wins in this race, since his first - Rutheford - in 1983. Whilst that is of immediate interest, it is worth noting he's gone five years without a win in the race now. And, though he was unrepresented in two of those years, he also saddled the favourite in two more renewals.
Montclair may be short enough on the day and, if he is, I'll have no qualms in switching allegiance to Valirann, who himself has a progressive profile and could well get first run on the Fabre horse again.
If there's a dark horse in the race then it may be the Darbadar-k horse. He's run just thrice, and had improved with each spin, getting off the mark last time under hands and heels. This is a big step up in trip and class, but he's a colt with plenty of improvement to come. On balance, I'll look elsewhere though, unless he's a double digit price.
Tactics will be crucial in the Chaudenay, and I have it between Montclair and Valirann, with preference for the former at a price above 2/1, and the latter otherwise.
Most likely Chaudenay winner: Montclair
Value Chaudenay play: Valirann