The highlight of the weekend’s action came from France with the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville.
The outstanding sprinter Muhaarar had taken the race last year, adding his name to a classy looking roll of honour which includes a trio of stars from French training dynasty, the Head’s, with Anabaa trained by Criquette, then Marchand d’Or and the wonderful Moonlight Cloud, trained by Freddy. The latter pair are the most successful in the races history, with three wins apiece.
Yesterday saw another French trained winner, when Francois Rohaut’s Signs Of Blessing made every yard to win by more than a length. In sprinting terms this was a relatively straight forward success with Stephane Pasquier controlling the race from the front, and never seriously threatened. The five-year-old had previously finished a close third to Twilight Son in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. He continues on a steep upward curve since a gelding operation at the end of his last campaign.
His trainer spoke after the victory, saying: “This horse has always shown a huge amount of promise and I am delighted he has been able to make good on it today. Things didn't go well last year but this proves we made the right decision to geld him. He will have a break and then go back to Ascot. If all goes well he could go to Hong Kong after that.”
Richard Fahey’s Donjuan Triumphant bounced back to form to finish second, after a lacklustre run last time in the Commonwealth Cup. The Andre Fabre-trained Jimmy Two Times was a neck further back in third, followed home by Suedois and Dutch Connection.
David O’Meara’s Suedois continues to run consistently at the highest level without managing to get his head in front. Runner-up in the Darley July Cup last time, he was part of the blanket finish behind Twilight Son at Royal Ascot, and prior to that just half a length behind Magical Memory in a Group 2 at York. He’s one to keep on side in the major sprints, especially on quick ground.
Dutch Connection also needs fast ground to be seen at his best. Charlie Hills was sending the four-year-old back into battle just 11 days after his Lennox Stakes success. Though he gave a solid performance, he always looked to be under pressure among these speedsters, and he’ll need to go back up in trip during the remainder of the campaign.
The Deauville showpiece was sadly marred by the fatal injury to Hong Kong’s Gold-Fun. The Diamond Jubilee runner-up was under pressure approaching the final furlong, and fell dramatically when fading in midfield. It is thought that the fall was due to a broken leg.
Both Donjuan Triumphant and Dutch Connection are expected to return to France for the Prix de la Foret. The race will be held at Chantilly, and could be used as a stepping stone toward the Breeders’ Cup Mile by Charlie Hills. The trainer said after Sunday’s run: “He was stepping back in trip and has run a very good race considering I didn't think the draw was ideal and that he had a lot of ground to make up from halfway. Ideally the ground will be quicker if he comes back to France for the Foret. But the big target is the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.”