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The Revenant steps up for Prix d’Ispahan test at ParisLongchamp

The Revenant warms up for a potential trip to Royal Ascot next month in the Prix d’Ispahan at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Francis-Henri Graffard’s stable star has made two previous appearances at Ascot – finishing second in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes before returning to the Berkshire circuit to go one better on Champions Day in October.

The six-year-old has been beaten in his first two starts of this season, but Graffard is hoping for an improved performance on his return to Group One level this weekend ahead of a possible tilt at the Queen Anne Stakes on June 15.

He said: “He’s in good shape. Nine furlongs is a step up in trip for him.

“The ground the other evening was very sticky. Hopefully it does not dry too much – I hope the ground will not be too firm for him.

“The softer the better for him, so we’ll see.

“He’s in very good form and very happy. That (Queen Anne) is an option if the ground is suitable.”

Just over half an hour after The Revenant landed the QEII, Skalleti finished second for France in the Qipco Champion Stakes – finding only the William Haggas-trained Addeybb too strong.

Skalleti (grey) ran a fine race in defeat at Ascot last year
Skalleti (grey) ran a fine race in defeat at Ascot last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Skalleti has returned with back-to-back victories this spring and trainer Jerome Reynier is hoping he can complete his hat-trick.

“We’re pretty happy with him. He won the Prix Exbury very well and was back in Paris to win the Prix d’Harcourt,” he said.

“We felt running him in the Ganay a few weeks later was probably too much, so we’ve been kind on him and decided we’d go straight to the d’Ispahan with a bit of freshness.

“The distance is on the short side and the ground will be on the firm side for him, but we can’t really expect much softer ground at this time of the year.

“The race that would have been best for him is the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, but logistically it was impossible to travel the horse to Ireland with the staff and everything, so we decided we’d stay at home and we’re hoping for the best on Sunday.”

Reynier is already looking forward to a return to Ascot in October, adding: “If we can win one Group One this year, it would be the Champion Stakes back in Ascot at the end of the year on soft ground.

“We’re not sure if we’ll go for the Prix Dollar this year. It’s only two weeks before Ascot, so it’s a tough prep for the horse.

“His target for 2021 is definitely the Champion Stakes – we’ll try to get our revenge on Addeybb.”

Andre Fabre saddles dual Group One winner Victor Ludorum, while British hopes are carried by the Charlie Hills-trained Tilsit and William Haggas’ My Oberon.

Wally (Jean-Claude Rouget) and Ecrivain (Carlos Laffon-Parias) complete the field.

The Revenant stays at home – for now

The combination of likely fast ground and travel complications mean The Revenant will run closer to home rather than go to Newbury for the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.

Trained by Francis-Henri Graffard, The Revenant won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day in October – having finished second to King Of Change in the corresponding race 12 months earlier.

A real mud lover, the six-year-old is now likely to run at Saint-Cloud on Saturday in the Prix du Muguet.

The Revenant was third on his comeback at Saint-Cloud in a Group Three this month, and Graffard has indicated he will have a Royal Ascot entry.

He said: “Everything is fine with the horse – it is just at the moment the ground is pretty dry everywhere, and it is so complicated to travel for the staff and the jockey

“We have everything against us, so I think we will just stay at home and run on Saturday in the Prix du Muguet.

“He will have an entry in the Queen Anne, but it will depend on things. We know he is very competitive in the autumn. We could save him until then – but on the other hand he is a gelding with very few miles on the clock, so he can run again.

“He will have an entry for (Royal) Ascot, but for the Lockinge it was just too hard to organise everything.”

Another star in Graffard’s stable is last year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up In Swoop, who also finished second on his comeback at ParisLongchamp recently.

“I was pleased with that run, because he’s a big horse and he needed the run,” said Graffard.

“He’ll come on for that and he’s going to run in a Group Three at Deauville in a few weeks.

“He’s entered in the Coronation Cup, so we’ll see how he is before that. Hopefully (Grand Prix de) Saint-Cloud can be a target for him this summer (July 4).

“He doesn’t need soft ground – he can go on any ground.”

The Revenant will be back for more next year

Francis-Henri Graffard is looking forward to setting The Revenant further top-level assignments in 2021, following his narrow Queen Elizabeth II Stakes victory at Ascot.

Runner-up to King Of Change in the Group One showpiece 12 months ago, the five-year-old returned on Saturday to go one better on Qipco British Champions Day under Pierre-Charles Boudot.

The Revenant had previously raced just once this season – winning the Prix Daniel Wildenstein at ParisLongchamp a fortnight ago – and Graffard hopes to see his charge in more regular action next season.

“He’s back in his box and very happy – he came out of the race well,” said the French trainer.

“The QEII was the plan since the race last year. Obviously we had to miss a big part of the season, and our patience was rewarded.

“He had a very good comeback in the Wildenstein and came on a lot for the race. He produced a very good performance.

“We will wait until next year now – we won’t travel abroad and will stick to Europe. Hopefully we will be able to run him in the spring and the autumn.

“He has won on good ground, but obviously he can perform at a very high level on soft and heavy.”

Unbeaten Palace Pier on track for QEII mission

Palace Pier remains on course to defend his unbeaten record at Ascot on Saturday after featuring among 18 remaining contenders for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Trained by John Gosden, Palace Pier is a hot favourite to extend his winning run to six under Frankie Dettori, having landed the St James’s Palace Stakes at the Royal meeting and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

Gosden also has high-class fillies Nazeef and Terebellum in the mix for the Qipco-sponsored showpiece following the confirmation stage.

The Andrew Balding-trained Kameko claimed Classic glory in the 2000 Guineas in the spring, and after finishing fourth in the Derby, the Sussex Stakes and the Juddmonte International, he made a successful return to a mile in in last month’s Joel Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien has a trio of hopefuls in Circus Maximus, Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch, while Benbatl is in contention for Saeed bin Suroor, although, as with Kameko, the prospect of testing conditions will be a concern.

Francis-Henri Graffard’s mud-lover The Revenant was runner-up to King Of Change in last year’s renewal and will return in a bid to go one better following a recent successful return to action at ParisLongchamp.

The Revenant (red) chases home King Of Change in last year's Champion Stakes
The Revenant (red) chases home King Of Change in last year’s Champion Stakes (Simon Cooper/PA)

Graffard said: “Everything is fine. The horse needed the run the other day, he has improved a lot and he should be spot on for Saturday.

“I don’t think the ground will be as soft as last year, but it should be fine for him.

“Hopefully he is ready to do his best and I hope he can finish in the first three, like last year.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream and David O’Meara’s pair of Escobar and Lord Glitters also feature.

Graffard targeting Champions Day with The Revenant

Francis-Henri Graffard has his sights set on Qipco Champions Day with The Revenant, while Wooded has not been completely ruled out of the Breeders’ Cup.

The trainer enjoyed an incredible Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend, winning the Prix Daniel Wildenstein and the Prix de l’Abbaye with the aforementioned duo, and came within a neck of winning the big race itself with In Swoop.

While In Swoop is done for the year, there are still big targets ahead for Graffard.

“The Revenant will go to Ascot, that’s the plan, but Wooded won’t go there,” said Graffard.

The Revenant (red) was second to King Of Change in the QEII 12 months ago
The Revenant (red) was second to King Of Change in the QEII 12 months ago (Simon Cooper/PA)

“The Revenant is entered in the QEII (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) and he’ll have another go – he ran in the race last year and was second.

“We think he will come on a lot for his run on Saturday, he came out of that race well so the plan is to go to Ascot. He should get his ground again, hopefully.”

Wooded reportedly prefers good ground and six furlongs, so to win the Abbaye on heavy was no mean feat.

“We haven’t had a chat about supplementing him for Ascot, so I don’t think we’ll do that,” said Graffard.

“He’s only three, sprinters tend to get better with age.

“He did get a ‘win and you’re in’ entry for the Breeders’ Cup, so we’ll see about if we go or not. At the moment no decision has been made.

“He’s a much better horse on good ground, we know that, so to win on heavy was great.”

In Swoop won the German Derby in July and relished the testing ground, just failing to reel in Sottsass.

In Swoop (black cap) just failed to catch
In Swoop (black cap) just failed to catch Sottsass (AP)

“With In Swoop, I was thrilled with how he ran, but at the same time frustrated he came so close to winning an Arc,” said Graffard.

“He had no excuses. There was no pace in the race and my horse is not a sprinter, so that was not on our side.

“It was a great performance and he proved he was one of the best three-year-olds in Europe.

“He will be a fantastic horse next year. He could possibly go up in trip, but there are some nice races over a mile and a half for him. Until he is not competitive over a mile and a half, we will keep him at that distance.”

Wooded denies Glass Slippers in bid for Abbaye repeat

Glass Slippers was narrowly denied a second successive win in the Prix de l’Abbaye as Wooded landed the prize on just his second run over five furlongs.

Kevin Ryan’s filly was aiming to become the first since Lochsong to win the Abbaye twice – but a draw in stall 10 made Tom Eaves’ task all the more difficult.

Glass Slippers broke well, though, and Eaves was able to get a prominent position on the outside and looked to have every chance.

But Wooded made full advantage of stall two and Pierre-Charles Boudot got a dream run throughout on the rail.

Entering the final furlong Frankie Dettori appeared to be going as well as anything on John Quinn’s Liberty Beach, but the very testing ground just took its toll close home.

Just as Wooded appeared to have seen off her main contender, Glass Slippers came with one last lunge, determined to hold on to her crown, but she had to admit a brave defeat.

The win capped a great weekend for trainer Francis-Henri Graffard, who won the Prix Daniel Wildenstein with The Revenant on Saturday and went close in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe itself with In Swoop.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s a horse I’ve always loved. We missed Ascot because of the lockdown and Covid. It was difficult to organise it. I was upset because I knew he was going to run very well in the Commonwealth Cup.

“Then I struggled with the trip. There were no races for him over six furlongs over the summer. We decided we needed to race him and toughen him up for next year because we have a nice sprinter on our hands.

“The only question was the ground. He is much better on fast ground. He worked on Monday. Pierre-Charles said he wasn’t the same horse on soft ground. Again we decided to run because I want to toughen him up for next year.

“It’s a brilliant victory – he went on soft today because he’s a very good horse.”

Graffard planning ParisLongchamp return for The Revenant

Last year’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes runner-up The Revenant is set to make his long-awaited return to action on Arc weekend at ParisLongchamp next month.

Formerly trained in Britain by Hugo Palmer, the five-year-old won seven of his first eight starts for Francis-Henri Graffard before finding the Richard Hannon-trained King Of Change too strong on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot last October.

The Revenant has not been seen in competitive action since that fine effort, but is closing in on a comeback ahead of a potential second tilt at the QEII on October 17.

Graffard said: “The Revenant is in very good form and the plan is for him to run in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Arc weekend.

“We’ll see what the result is there before deciding where we go afterwards.

“We decided we wanted to wait for the softer ground, so we stopped (training) during the lockdown. He has missed half of the year, but that was nothing to do with the horse, but because of the conditions.

“He is in top form and we will be pleased to see him back on the racecourse.”

The Revenant is a best-priced 16-1 with Paddy Power for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, with John Gosden’s unbeaten three-year-old Palace Pier the odds-on favourite.