Mother Earth must see off a strong challenge from both the home contingent and fellow travellers as she bids for a Classic double in the Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches at ParisLongchamp.
Aidan O’Brien’s 1000 Guineas heroine will seek to add the French equivalent to her expanding CV on Sunday – and her trainer anticipates that, whether she follows up on not, her performance will also provide clues to future assignments.
Among Mother Earth’s most prominent rivals this weekend are Andre Fabre’s unbeaten filly Philomene, Kildare trainer Ken Condon’s returning Group Two winner Miss Amulet and Lullaby Moon for Ralph Beckett.
Francis-Henri Graffard’s Sweet Lady is also a major contender, having managed only a close fourth as an odds-on favourite but stayed on very well from an unpromising position over course and distance at Group Three level last month.
Mother Earth was a convincing winner at Newmarket two weeks ago, and O’Brien said: “We’re really looking forward to seeing her run again.
“Obviously she hasn’t done much since she won at Newmarket – she’s just had an easy time.
“I’m not sure yet if she’ll get further than a mile as the year goes on.
“She’s from a fast pedigree, but Frankie (Dettori, winning jockey at Newmarket) felt she might get a little bit further the last time he rode her.”
Coronavirus travel restrictions mean Christophe Soumillon takes over in Paris – while Condon has recruited Ioritz Mendizabal to partner Miss Amulet.
It is by design that last year’s Lowther Stakes winner begins her three-year-old campaign here, having had a busy and fruitful juvenile season which culminated in a fine third over this trip at the Breeders’ Cup.
Condon said: “She accumulated plenty of experience as a juvenile – eight runs, been abroad and obviously finished her year in the Breeders’ Cup.
“So she’s not lacking in that department. It was something I discussed with (owner’s husband) Michael Tabor, and everyone was happy to just aim for this race.
“She does like nice ground too, so I didn’t think the likelihood of nice ground in the trials in the spring was probably realistic – so we were happy to go straight there.”
Condon hopes Miss Amulet will have the necessary stamina – but admits he does not know for certain yet.
“You’d need to see more evidence, I suppose, before you could be categorical about the trip,” he said.
“But to my eyes, she ran on well and was strong going to the line (over a mile at Keeneland).”
He is confident about her readiness, adding: “She’s in very good condition.
“We’ve had an uninterrupted prep. She’s fit and looks a picture, all is well with her.
“She’s not a flamboyant worker, or anything like that, but she’s done everything we’ve wanted. She’s been on the grass with all the fillies here at the Curragh, and she won’t lack for fitness anyway.
“She’s drawn 13, which will be difficult out there. But I’ll speak with Ioritz Mendizabal and Michael, and we’ll try to formulate a plan.”
Beckett is happy with Lullaby Moon – but will be even more pleased if the ground eases from its forecast good to soft for his filly’s first start of the year, after she concluded her two-year-old career with a Group Three win in heavy at Chantilly.
“Lullaby Moon has worked well this spring and is ready for this task,” said the Hampshire trainer.
“Every drop of rain that falls up to post time will help.”
A daughter of Dubawi, Philomene most recently won the Group Three Prix Penelope over an extended 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud.
Lisa-Jane Graffard of Godolphin told www.godolphin.com: “Philomene is a very straightforward filly, who has enjoyed an uninterrupted preparation. Dropping her back in trip came under discussion very quickly after the Prix Penelope and Andre Fabre felt this race worked best for her timing-wise.
“She is a filly with a lot of class and Andre has very few worries about the trip. It’s obviously unusual to drop back in distance from a prep race to the Pouliches, but it has been done before and he felt that it was the right thing to do.
“This is very much a springboard for the Prix de Diane, but we are hopeful that she can run very well.”
Like Beckett, Sweet Lady’s handler would also like to see rain, as she is already twice a winner in heavy ground.
“Sweet Lady is in great shape and, the more rain there is, the happier I will be,” Graffard said.
“She ran well in the Prix de la Grotte, which was a bit of a strange race, with little pace.
“Christophe Soumillon looked after her that day. She has improved a lot for the run and looks in very good order to me. We are following the tried-and-tested route.”
Group One-winning juvenile Tiger Tanaka is likely to be running her final race before retirement – and trainer Charley Rossi knows he has huge reason to be thankful to his Prix Marcel Boussac heroine.
Tiger Tanaka won that prize over this course and distance in October, and will again be ridden by Rossi’s wife Jessica Marcialis.
He said: “We are calm. Tiger Tanaka is doing well – she showed us that she was in very good order during her work on Wednesday.
“I think this will be her last race. She has had some health issues in the past, and we want to do what is right by her.
“It is a great privilege to train such a filly. It is thanks to her that my wife, Jessica Marcialis, made racing history. Tiger Tanaka certainly has captured the imagination.”