Atomic Force impresses with front-running Chantilly strike

Atomic Force put up another scintillating performance for an all-the-way win in the Group Two Darley Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly.

Kevin Ryan’s hugely-talented juvenile was never headed as he added this prize to last month’s equally impressive course-and-distance victory in the Prix du Bois on his previous trip to France.

Stephane Pasquier again had the son of Cotai Glory out in front from the outset after breaking very well – and although the field briefly closed up mid-race, Atomic Force quickened again to win emphatically by two and a half lengths from outsider Baghed.

A second British challenger, Hellomydarlin, was third for George Boughey.

The winner has changed hands since his first Chantilly victory – from Hambleton Racing to Siu Pak Kwan.

But he remains in Ryan’s North Yorkshire yard, and he said: “He’s a very straightforward horse, has a huge amount of ability, a great temperament, a great mind.

“He has a high cruising speed and he quickens off it. He’s a wonderful horse to deal with.

“He cruises through a race, and he has that good turn of foot, and he’s done it very stylishly again today.”

As a gelding, several high-profile targets cannot be considered – but Atomic Force does hold an entry in next month’s valuable Ballyhane Stakes at Naas.

Ryan is in no rush to make definite plans, however.

“He’s a fantastic horse,” he said.

“From day one, he’s been a lovely horse to deal with, and has identified his ability very early and then just kept improving with it.

“I’m delighted for the (new) connections as well.

“He’s limited as to what he can go for. We’ll let him get home, and I’ll discuss that with his connections at the end of week.

“We won’t make any decisions (just yet), and we’ll do what’s right by the horse.”

Earlier on the card, Victor Ludorum returned to winning form for the first time in six starts, since his success in last year’s French 2000 Guineas at Deauville, easily collaring front-running Brentford Hope in the Group Three Prix Messidor.

Mickael Barzalona tracked Richard Hughes’ British contender on Andre Fabre’s charge, before leading two furlongs out and taking the measure of the runner-up – who stayed on well to keep the remainder at bay but was beaten three lengths.

Barzalona told Sky Sports Racing: “That was great. He was a little bit disappointing in his last run (fifth in the Group One Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp).

“He’d come back very well from his first run of the season.

“(But) today it was a nice, regular pace – and I was pretty happy.”

A return to the top level, and a clash with John and Thady Gosden’s top miler Palace Pier, may beckon for Victor Ludorum in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville next month.

“That might be part of the normal programme for him,” said Barzalona.

“It’s going to be a top race, against Palace Pier, but he deserves to be in it.”

Barzalona and Fabre completed a big-race double when Noticeable Grace took the Group Three Prix Chloe.

Barzalona again hauled back a long-time leader but only just in time on this occasion, as Noticeable Grace pounced deep in the final furlong to pass Charlie Appleby’s Creative Flair to win by a head.

In a busy finish, Rougir also eventually got the better of Creative Flair to bag second spot by a nose.

Joan Of Arc scores brave victory in Prix de Diane

Joan Of Arc repelled the late finish of Philomene to claim the Prix de Diane at Chantilly.

The filly was providing trainer Aidan O’Brien with a third French Classic victory this season, and his first ever in the Prix de Diane, after stablemate St Mark’s Basilica claimed both the French 2000 Guineas and Derby.

Ioritz Mendizabal was aboard St Mark’s Basilica for those triumphs, and he teamed up to great effect with Joan Of Arc again.

Last seen when beaten a short head in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Joan Of Arc was prominent throughout in the 10-furlong heat as Rumi and Sibila Spain vied for the early lead.

The latter was in front turning for home, and it briefly looked as though Joan Of Arc might get run out of it, but when she hit top gear she grabbed the lead and set sail for home.

Philomene made late ground from the back of the field, but Joan Of Arc had flown and she hung on by three-quarters of a length at the line.

Burgarita was another to make late gains to grab third from Sibila Spain, meaning Andre Fabre saddled the two placed runners.

Aidan O'Brien was winning his first French Oaks
Aidan O’Brien was winning his first French Oaks (PA)

O’Brien said: “I’m absolutely delighted. I’m so delighted for everyone. Ioritz gave her a great ride. She’s a homebred filly, so it’s incredible really.

“Obviously we’ve tried to win the race lots of times – but it’s a very difficult race to win, very competitive. I’m absolutely over the moon.

“We thought she was very good from her first run in Ireland when she got beat by a very good filly of (son) Donnacha’s – then she won her maiden very easily and she went to a Guineas trial next time, and all the leaders went a little bit too fast, and it didn’t really suit her.

“Her next run after that she won a Group Three at Leopardstown and was then just beaten in the Guineas.

“That’s why Sue (Magnier, part-owner) named her Joan Of Arc, (because) she was obviously always very special.

“She has progressed with every run – (and) she’s a lovely mind, very well-balanced and a big, long stride.

“She looks very exciting. What was very exciting about her today, I think she won a length, so she went to the line very strong.

“When you can ride them that handy and find that much for pressure – as the distance was going on, she was really opening up – she’s really exciting.”

Love was a winner at Royal Ascot on Wednesday
Love was a winner at Royal Ascot on Wednesday (David Davies/PA)

Ladbrokes offer 20-1 about Joan Of Arc for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp in the autumn, and O’Brien thinks switching up in distance to 12 furlongs would not be an issue – although he has an embarrassment of riches, with the likes of multiple Group One winner Love and Oaks winner Snowfall among others in the middle-distance division.

He added: “Speaking to Ioritz, he was really impressed with her and thought a mile and a half would be no problem. He said she really only got going a furlong out – he was saying she would love stepping up, so I think it (Arc) has to be a big possibility.

“It’s an amazing race, and we’re just very lucky to have some very good three-year-olds at the moment – and Love as well.

“I suppose it’s a good position to be in. We’ll try to space out their races and give them a little rest in between and head that way then for the autumn.”

Snowfall impressed with a wide-margin win at Epsom
Snowfall impressed with a wide-margin win at Epsom (John Walton/PA)

Asked to compare his English and French Oaks winners, O’Brien said: “I suppose they’ve come from different routes really.

“We thought both were very high-class two-year-olds.

“Obviously this filly came from the Guineas route – whereas we started Snowfall at a mile and a quarter and then went up to a mile and a half.

“We know Snowfall gets a mile and a half very well, and obviously this filly hasn’t run over it yet – but she has progressed with every run.

“They’re very exciting fillies.”

Ioritz Mendizabal and O'Brien have been in fine form in 2021
Ioritz Mendizabal and O’Brien have been in fine form in 2021 (Clint Hughes/PA)

O’Brien is delighted to have struck up a fruitful partnership with Mendizabal this term as coronavirus restrictions continue to impact on jockeys’ ability to travel to France.

He said: “We are just so thrilled Ioritz agreed to ride for us, he’s very intelligent, a brilliant horseman and has great experience. We were obviously very confident after speaking to him – he’s a world-class rider, and we’re just so grateful that he agreed to ride our horses. It’s a real privilege.

“When we talk to him we feel so confident. He’s very intelligent – he works out what he wants to do and what could happen, and all the different options.

“We leave it to him really. We feel so privileged that he’s riding for us really. He’s a very special rider, very special.”

Ioritz Mendizabal celebrates aboard Joan Of Arc
Ioritz Mendizabal celebrates aboard Joan Of Arc (Scoopdyga)

Medizabal added: “Aidan O’Brien is my Santa Claus! He has given me two superb horses to ride in recent weeks.

“I want to thank him very much. He gave me some simple instructions, but when the horses are as good as that, it’s easy.”

“All this success is a direct result of the hard work put in at home and for me to be working with the Aidan O’Brien team is just incredible!

“I can imagine that my two daughters and my mother were shouting at the television. Throughout the race I was just getting ready to accelerate. I wasn’t pushing her, I was simply just going with her in her stride.

“As of 400 metres (two furlongs) out I wasn’t fully sure we were going to win because Sibila Spain is a good filly, but Joan Of Arc fought hard and got there for me.”

Atomic Force overpowers Chantilly rivals

Atomic Force made every yard of the running to claim an impressive success in the Prix du Bois Longines at Chantilly.

Trained by Kevin Ryan for Hambleton Racing, the Cotai Glory gelding had finished second on his debut at Musselburgh in April before following up with victory at Hamilton last month.

Upped to Group Three company in France, Atomic Force was partnered by Stephane Pasquier – who had the British raider smartly away in the six-furlong heat.

Wesley Ward’s runner Napa Spirit sat on his heels, but Atomic Force was soon bowling along in front and he had his nine rivals in trouble from some way out, with Pasquier only having to keep him up to his work to prevail by five lengths.

Black Lives Matter finished best of the rest, with Best Sixteen a further length back in third.

“We were very hopeful, but we probably didn’t expect him to win quite as impressively,” said Simon Turner, Hambleton’s racing director.

“He looks a very good horse.

“He enjoys a little bit of ease underfoot, and we thought there was every chance he’d get it there (Chantilly) – it just looked a nice stepping stone.

“He’s progressing quickly and looks a quality two-year-old.

“The (Prix Robert) Papin could be an option for him. We’ll consider all the good Group sprint races that he’s eligible for, see how he comes out of it and be guided by Kevin really.”

Erasmo had earlier struck gold for Andre Fabre and Mickael Barzalona in the Prix Paul de Moussac.

The Oasis Dream colt had won twice as juvenile but could finish only second on his return in the Prix La Force, prompting Fabre to drop back to Listed company for his last two starts.

After winning at ParisLongchamp in May, he was switched back up to Group Three level for this mile heat – and while Erasmo had to work hard for the win, he kept on well in the final furlong to see off Best Lightning by a short neck.

Godolphin’s Lisa-Jane Graffard told “Erasmo is a very brave horse, who never runs a bad race, and this is a fantastic result for him.

“We will see how he comes out of the race, but he has been kept busy so far this season. We may give him a break before bringing him back for the autumn, possibly looking at one of the races on Arc weekend.”

Maxime Guyon took the other two Group races on the card, landing the Prix Bertrand du Breuil Longines with Ecrivain and the Prix du Lys Longines with Northern Ruler.

In Swoop takes next step on road back to the Arc

Last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up In Swoop lived up to his name to claim victory in the Grand Prix de Chantilly.

Olivier Peslier’s mount quickened off a pace that was little more than a crawl to master Vaucelles and then comfortably hold old rival Sublimis and pass another test en route to a return to Longchamp in October.

The four-year-old’s trainer Francis-Henri Graffard was not surprised when informed that his charge had clocked a time 20 seconds slower than the record for the distance, and expressed a view that his odds-on winner would not be allowed to rest on his laurels before the first Sunday in October.

Next up for In Swoop will be either the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud or the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot at the end of July.

Graffard – who had considered a crack at the Coronation Cup – said: “I’m glad we stuck to our original plan to bring him here. It (Epsom) was an option, but we wanted to stick to the programme. I was very upset when I saw all the rain at Epsom, but he’s kept going today off that very slow pace and will be 100 per cent next time.

“Once he quickened with that kick from Olivier at just the right time they were never going to get to him, and he’s improving with every run. He will handle soft, good to soft and good ground, but on good ground he would need a fast pace which we might get in the King George. He’s entered for the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and we need to look at that first.”

Graffard sited the importance of his colt having a run in the summer and concluded: “He’s not the sort of horse you can afford to stop with for too long, which is why he will go to Saint-Cloud, or Ascot, or both.”

Tahlie is set for Group One action
Tahlie is set for Group One action (PA)

Tahlie continued her rise up the ranks when taking her winning run to four in the Group Two Prix de Sandringham.

The Pascal Bary-trained filly led inside the final furlong in the hands of Christophe Soumillon, to register a third course success that included a Listed contest last month.

However, the 11-8 favourite was all-out to hold the late challenge of Kennella, who had finished third in the French 1000 Guineas.

Kevin Ryan’s British raider Bellisime was last of the five runners after making most of the running.

Bary said: “She’s a tough filly, who takes her racing extremely well and always tries her best.

“I think she has earned a crack at a Group One – she will be entered in more than one of those, but the obvious race for her is the Prix Rothschild at Deauville.”

Enable’s brother Derab going for French Derby gold

Derab and Megallan give John Gosden a strong hand in his bid for back-to-back victories in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club on Sunday.

The Clarehaven handler, who now trains in partnership with son Thady, secured his first success in the French Derby last season with the brilliant Mishriff, who has since won the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic.

Both Derab and Megallan have some way to go scale those heights, but head to Chantilly with strong claims – albeit neither has fared particularly well in the draw.

Derab, a son of Sea The Stars and a half-brother to Gosden’s wonder mare Enable, opened his account at the third attempt with a runaway success in a Newmarket novice event last month. He is drawn wider than ideal in stall 14.

Megallan was last seen contesting the Dante Stakes at York – running a fine race in defeat to fill the runner-up spot behind Epsom contender Hurricane Lane. He will break next to his stable companion in stall 15.

Thady Gosden said: “Both horses cantered on Friday morning and seem in good form.

“Derab has taken his Newmarket race well and Megallan ran very well in the Dante and has been in good form since.

“Chantilly is a hard enough track to ride without being drawn out on a wing, but it could have been worse. Martin Harley (rides Derab) has ridden there a couple of times and Olivier Peslier (rides Megallan) could go round there in his sleep, I’d imagine.

“They’re forecast quite a bit of rain. Hopefully the ground doesn’t get too soft.”

St Mark's Basilica on his way to ParisLongchamp glory
St Mark’s Basilica on his way to ParisLongchamp glory (Scoopdyga/France Galop)

St Mark’s Basilica bids to join an elite list by notching up a French Classic double, having won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains – the French 2000 Guineas – last time out.

Shamardal doubled up in 2005, the year the race switched distance to 10 furlongs, while Lope De Vega (2010) and Brametot (2017) have also lifted both races in recent years.

St Mark’s Basilica, who also landed the Dewhurst last year, was partnered by Ioritz Mendizabal to Classic glory at ParisLongchamp last month, and he will be in the plate again on Sunday.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s been lovely since the Guineas and it was always the plan to go back to France for the French Derby, so that’s where he is.

“We’re very happy with him since and looking forward to seeing him run. He hasn’t run over that trip, but we’re looking forward to seeing it.”

Van Gogh is Aidan O'Brien's second string
Van Gogh is Aidan O’Brien’s second string (PA)

O’Brien also runs Van Gogh, a Group One winner as a juvenile in France and last seen finishing third behind Mac Swiney in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Colin Keane takes the ride.

The Ballydoyle handler added: “Van Gogh is a quality horse that won a Group One at the back end of last year and he had a very good run in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. For him to run that well, as we took our time on him in not a strongly-run race, we were very happy with him.

“He always works like a horse with plenty of class and with that type of horse you can never be sure (of the trip) until they go there. You would think there is a really good chance he will get a mile and a quarter.

“I don’t think (he needs soft ground) as he had some very nice runs here on nice ground.”

Jean Claude-Rouget fields three, headed by Makaloun, who relinquished his unbeaten juvenile record when only third to Gear Up in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in October but returned with a cosy success in the Prix de Guiche last month.

Rouget said: “We made a conscious decision to keep Makaloun under wraps for a considerable period during the winter, as he had run late in the season and on a track that was very demanding on the body. So he went late into training, but quite quickly came to himself in the mornings.

“In the Prix de Guiche, which the colt won, he wasn’t 100 per cent. I don’t think I can have him in any better condition than he is now.”

Rouget also has two unbeaten colts in Saiydabad and Cheshire Academy, who won the Group Three Prix Noailles in the stewards’ room on his only outing so far this term.

Both Makaloun and Cheshire Academy will have to contend with high draws though, in 18 and 19 respectively in a 19-runner field.

Freddy Head expects Adhamo to handle testing conditions
Freddy Head expects Adhamo to handle testing conditions (Steve Parsons/PA)

Adhamo won the Prix La Force in April for Freddy Head, but had to settle for fourth behind Makaloun at Chantilly last time out.

Head expects the 10-furlong trip to suit and is unconcerned by conditions, which were described as very soft on Friday following 32 millimetres of rain.

He said: “The colt is doing very well and I’m very happy with him. The 2,100-metres trip is not a problem and, if it rains it won’t be a problem either.”

Three colts who finished behind St Mark’s Basilica in the Poulains take him on again – Policy Of Truth (fourth), Normandy Bridge (seventh) and Sealiway (eighth).

St Mark’s Basilica and Van Gogh all set for French Derby

St Mark’s Basilica will face 18 rivals when he bids for a French Classic double in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt, winner of last month’s French 2000 Guineas on the first start of his three-year-old campaign at ParisLongchamp, is joined in Sunday’s field by stablemate Van Gogh.

The latter was a possible for the Derby at Epsom until O’Brien pared his team down to one, favourite Bolshoi Ballet, for Saturday’s premier British Classic.

St Mark’s Basilica, who has been drawn in stall two, steps up beyond a mile for the first time this weekend, as does Ballydoyle’s apparent second string – last seen finishing third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

As in the French Guineas, Ioritz Mendizabal rides St Mark’s Basilica, while Colin Keane is called up for Van Gogh.

Like O’Brien, John and Thady Gosden will be double-handed in the French Derby, over 10 and a half furlongs – with their Dante Stakes runner-up Megallan (Olivier Peslier) and impressive Newmarket novice winner Derab, who will be ridden by Martin Harley and is a half-brother to the mighty Enable. The yard was successful last year with the brilliant Mishriff.

Roger Varian also provides a British challenger in the shape of El Drama (Mickael Barzalona), following his surprise victory in the Dee Stakes at Chester.

Among the home contingent, Jean-Claude Rouget has three contenders – dual Group Three winner Makaloun and unbeaten pair Saiydabad and Cheshire Academy. Makaloun and Cheshire Academy are drawn in stalls 18 and 19 respectively.

Frederic Rossi’s Sealiway, only eighth to St Mark’s Basilica at ParisLongchamp but a Group One-winning juvenile there, and Freddy Head’s Adhamo are others of note.

Tinkler has much to look forward to with sprint aces

Nigel Tinkler is looking forward to campaigning Acklam Express in big sprints after the three-year-old finished a close third on his first attempt in a Group One at Meydan.

The son of Mehmas was only beaten three-quarters of a length by the Ryan Moore-ridden winner Extravagant Kid in the Al Quoz Sprint, to confirm he does stay six furlongs.

It gives North Yorkshire trainer Tinkler, who also has the speedy Ubettabelieveit in his yard, more options.

“We were doubtful if he’d get the six, but he showed he does get six. Obviously it gives us a lot more options,” he said on Sunday.

“The horse ran very well. We were very proud of the horse and jockey (Rowan Scott).

“He’s absolutely fine. He flies back tomorrow and should be back here in his own stable tomorrow evening.

“We don’t know quite where we’ll go. We’re going to review the whole thing in the next couple of weeks.”

Tinkler is considering giving both horses an entry in the Group Three Prix Sigy over five and a half furlongs at Chantilly on April 20.

“There is a Group race in April at Chantilly. It’s over five and a five furlongs and we’re going to look at that race for both of them and decide whether to give them an entry,” the North Yorkshire handler went on.

“Ubettabelieveit would be ready to run then, but he needs fast ground which is a little bit of a question mark April-time in Paris.”