Prix de l'Opera 2013 Preview / Tips
The Opera is a Group 1 for fillies and mares run over a mile and a quarter, and generally won by a genuine Group 1 distaff. It's another race the three- and four-year-olds have monopolized, with just Satwa Queen (2007) winning for the older nags since 1974. That doesn't bode at all well for either of Pagera, re-routed here from the Prix de Royallieu on Saturday, or Roger Charlton's Thistle Bird, both of which are five.
Indeed, three-year-olds have something of a stranglehold on the race, having won all of the last five Operas, and thirty of the last forty.
British and Irish fillies have won nine of the last twenty instances of the Opera, though only Roger Varian's Nahrain has conquered the locals in the last seven years.
With the Royallieu over a mile and a half seemingly at her mercy, this is an interesting slot for Ralph Beckett's Secret Gesture to fill, given that she's not run over such a short trip in four races this season. That said, she's not short of pace, as she showed when winning the Listed Oaks trial over a mile and three by ten lengths. She was already well clear by the furlong pole, and ought not to be especially inconvenienced by the drop in range.
She has the class for a race like this, and she's owned by the sponsor, who will be most keen to recoup a few of his Qatari riyals. The only time Secret Gesture was out of the first two in her six race career was the last day, in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. While she would have been no match for The Fugue that day on any turf, it's possible that the first time she has encountered the word 'firm' in the going description was to blame for a slightly sub-par effort.
Prior to that, she was second in both the Epsom and German Oaks, and I like her.
Pick of the French will probably be Andre Fabre's grey Godolphin filly, Tasaday. She was third in the French 1000 Guineas, and fourth in the French Oaks, and third last time out in the Prix Vermeille. Those were all Group 1 efforts, the last two when beaten roughly the same distance behind Treve, second favourite for the Arc.
In between those two Treve trumpings, Tasaday won twice herself, both at Deauville and both in less Group company over this mile and a quarter distance. She seems to be fine with some cut in the ground, and her level of public ability is broadly in line with Secret Gesture's. Surprisingly, Andre Fabre hasn't won the Opera since 1997, and he's run thirteen in the intervening years, including an odds on favourite. Two of his, one of them that jolly, were second, so it's hard to write him off... but Tasaday could very well be over-bet and offer value elsewhere.
Sparkling Beam finished behind Tasaday in second on both of those two Deauville runs, and it's very hard to envisage how she can tournez les tables here under similar conditions. (Apologies for the Del Boy French interjections).
Thistle Bird, for all that she's ostensibly 'too old', cannot be discounted on the merit of her Nassau Stakes run. She was a close second to Winsili in that ten furlong Group 1 and that ties in closely with the pick of this pack. She backed that up with a nine furlong win in Group 3 company at Epsom earlier in the year, on good to soft. The best of her form however is on quick ground, and I suspect the combination of the weight for age allowance she cedes to the younger lasses, and the sodden turf, will conspire against her.
Dalkala may be the most interesting of all. We've seen her in England this year. She won the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York back in May. Since then she got whacked in a vintage renewal of the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Novellist won, beating Dunaden and Cirrus Des Aigles, amongst others), before running a nice third in the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet over Deauville's equivalent circuit. She's won over as far as a mile and five furlongs (in heavy ground!) so she'll not want for stamina, and she does have a touch of class to go with it, as the G1 bronze last time illustrates.
I do feel she might just lack the zip to outrun some of these over ten furlongs, but if it comes up quaggy, she'd be a player.
And then there's Silasol. Winner of the mile Group 1 Marcel Boussac on soft this day last year, she's since won a course and distance Group 1 (Prix Saint-Alary) again on soft. This is her trip, this is her track, and she might well get her ground as well. As a daughter of Monsun, she's a mudlark, and if it rains, keep Silasol onside.
The Prix de l'Opera is a fascinating race this year, and there are plenty with some sort of chance. Depending on the available odds, I'd be interested in the chances of Secret Gesture, Silasol and Dalkala.
Opera Suggestion: Secret Gesture 5/1 Paddy
Soft Ground Picks: Silasol 10/1 Paddy / Dalkala 10/1 Paddy