Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere 2013 Preview / Tips
The richest race on the French juvenile circuit, closely matched with the Prix Morny, the Lagardere - run over seven furlongs - is a pot plundered by many a British and Irish raider. Indeed, eleven of the last seventeen renewals have been carted across la Manche. The main daylight robber has been Aidan O'Brien with a clutch of seven wins since 1997. Interestingly, perhaps, he's failed to add to that tally since 2006.
Just nine remain engaged for this most prestigious of prizes, and O'Brien relies on Wilshire Boulevard to enhance his prominence on the Lagardere roll of honour. Wilshire Boulevard has yet to win above Group 3 level, though he was second in a Group 2 last time; and has yet to race beyond six furlongs, though he is bred for this longer trip.
Indeed, his dear old daddy, Holy Roman Emperor, was the last Ballydoyle boyo to score in this, as mentioned, in 2006. He is battle hardened, like many from his stable, having had six runs already - four of them resulting in a gold or silver medal - and he has scope to improve for the step up to seven-eighths. Whether he's good enough is another question entirely, and I'll be wagering he's not quite up to this.
The favourite is another of the raiding party, Outstrip, representing Charlie Appleby and Godolphin. It's been a very difficult year for the Godolphin team, and Appleby only finds himself here due to the disgrace of his former guv'nor Mahmood al Zarooni. Nevertheless, Charlie has started very well, and his horse has the best combination of proven form and projected improvement in the field.
After just three runs, Outstrip has finished second and then first in a brace of seven furlong Group 2's, both of them on good to soft ground. That profile lends itself readily to comparison with Sunday's race conditions, and the facile manner of his latest Doncaster success - by three lengths from yardstick, The Grey Gatsby - was eye-catching, cutting down the outside and drawing away.
The best of the French may well be Karakontie, a Bernstein colt who probably wants further in time. His US/Japanese breeding leads me to think he may prove best on faster ground too, though he did win his debut on very soft, beating a horse called Ectot. Ectot has since won three in a row, the last of which was a Group 3. If he acts on the ground, he will be the main danger.
Noozhoh Canarias is very hard to peg. He's won his three starts, impressively each time, and the last of them in Listed company over six furlongs. However, all three runs were on good ground, which it is unlikely to be on Sunday, and he's never run at the main Paris or Normandy tracks.
In fact, he had the first two of his three starts in Spain, at La Zarzuela near Madrid. Your guess is as good as mine as to how that form stacks up, so it is best to focus on his last day win at Bordeaux's La Teste track. That was a Listed event, and he beat Elusive Pearl and Another Party, the latter of which has since run within a short neck of a Group 3 victory at Chantilly, having been nearly seven lengths behind Noozhoh Canarias. He re-opposes here, but it's hard to see him reversing form.
This horse reminds me of 2011 Lagardere winner, Dabirsim, who started out at La Teste before bashing up the best of the Parisians in their own back jardin. Whether he's good enough to replicate that one's electric turn of pace - it really was a phenomenally charmed run Frankie got that day from a nigh on impossible position - remains to be seen. But the nature of his performances to date mean he could be up to it, and he's a price so to do.
Most Likely Winner: Outstrip 6/4 Paddy
Most Interesting Runner: Noozhoh Canarias 6/1 Paddy