Rouhiya swoops late to grab Pouliches prize

Kathmandu was agonisingly denied Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches glory as Rouhiya pulled out extra to ensure the Classic prize remained on home soil at ParisLongchamp.

Taken back by Maxime Guyon to track the pace set by Brian Meehan’s Kathmandu in the early stages, the Francis-Henri Graffard-trained winner picked up well when asked to win her race as the action developed, threading the eye of the needle to strike in the dying strides.

Having led from the moment the gates opened, it was despair for the Sean Levey-ridden Kathmandu who had to settle for a silver medal, while Willie McCreery’s Vespertilio ran a fine race to pick up the final spot on the podium.

William Buick had sent Charlie Appleby’s Romantic Style forward from a wide draw and she was also involved in the finish, coming home in fourth.

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Owned by the Aga Khan, the winner was much improved on her previous outing over the track and trip in April, making rapid strides in her first race at the highest level.

“Francis-Henri Graffard’s gut feeling last year was that she was a Poule filly. This week, we asked ourselves the question, should we run in the Poule d’Essai on Sunday? Or head to the Prix des Lilas at Chantilly on Saturday?” said Princess Zahra Aga Khan.

“We reasoned in terms of the future, and in terms of the filly as a breeding prospect, so we opted for the Poule d’Essai.

“Maxime Guyon rode a superb race, as the filly was perfectly positioned, having harnessed her energies accordingly. Although half way up the straight a great deal of uncertainty had set in.

“For a breeder to produce a filly like her is extraordinary. It’s the reward of decades of work. Classic winners are so important for breeding, and especially so over a mile.”

Graffard added: “What an incredible race! We had a perfect run despite a bad draw. I had informed her jockey that she has a sharp turn of foot although her burst isn’t a lasting one. So he waited as long as possible before delivering his challenge.

“Rouhiya had made a lot of progress since her seasonal debut and she had been working very well. I had hesitated between the Poule d’Essai and the Prix des Lilas, but the Princess advised me to try our luck in the Poule d’Essai.”

The Rouhiya team collect their prizes at ParisLongchamp
The Rouhiya team collect their prizes at ParisLongchamp (PA)

For Meehan it was the second successive year he has experienced last-gasp heartache in the French capital as his wait for an elusive Classic winner goes on.

Isaac Shelby was beaten by the barest margin in the equivalent race for the colts last year and Kathmandu could now be set for a drop back in trip as she searches for compensation at Royal Ascot.

“It’s tough and she has run such an incredible race,” said Meehan.

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Kathmandu (left) seen here at Newmarket
Kathmandu (left) seen here at Newmarket (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“All credit to the team at home and here with her, the owners Ed Babbington and Sam Sangster let me put her in the Guineas in the spring and she’s a wonderful filly – a Group One filly – and I thought Sean gave her an outstanding ride.

“It’s heart-breaking and it’s about the seventh Classic-placed horse I’ve had now – it’s becoming annoying.

“She’s run beautifully, she’s a stunning filly and there’s so much to love about her, we’re going to have a great time with her for sure.

“She definitely gets a mile, but whether she was on the limit of her stamina here today – and Sean felt that – so we will see. Maybe the Jersey Stakes at Ascot but we will see. There is so much we can do with her during the summer and have a lot of fun.”

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