Mullins sets sights on Ascot Gold for Princess Zoe

A trip to Saudi Arabia and a tilt at Gold Cup glory at Royal Ascot are among the potential targets for Princess Zoe next season after her winning run came to an end in France on Sunday.

The Tony Mullins-trained mare has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being bought from Germany this year, progressing from a mark of 64 when second on her Irish debut at Navan in June to claim top-level honours in the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend earlier this month.

The five-year-old was bidding for a sixth successive win on her return to Paris for the Prix Royal-Oak – and while she came up a little short, she was far from disgraced in finishing fourth behind the Mark Johnston-trained Subjectivist.

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Mullins said: “She pulled out fine this morning and is in transit as we speak. The people looking after her said she looked a bit tired, which I can believe.

“The way she ran tells me that we’re going to have some action again next year. You might have been worried what she did in the Cadran was a flash in the pan, but she showed me yesterday that she’s a serious trier and we’ll be at the top table again next summer.

“There’s no doubt the 22-day turnaround was just a step too far. I thought she performed admirably under the circumstances.”

With a jumping career now ruled out, Mullins is excited to see what his stable star can achieve on the Flat in 2021, with the staying race on the Saudi Cup undercard at Riyadh a possible first port of call.

Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at Galway
Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at Galway (PA)

He added: “She’ll have a holiday now. There is a chance that we could go to Saudi Arabia in February – if we were sure the ground wasn’t going to be firm, that could come onto the table.

“I’d say the Ascot Gold Cup will be a target. I don’t see us having a busy summer, because I want to leave enough petrol there for the likes of the Prix du Cadran and the race yesterday again.

“It’s very early to be making definite plans, but my talk of going for the Arc might be gone off the table for the moment – we’re looking at stamina races.”

Subjectivist seals Group One-winning weekend for Mark Johnston

Subjectivist put up a fine front-running performance to land the Prix Royal-Oak (French St Leger) at ParisLongchamp and complete a memorable weekend for the Mark Johnston stable.

The victory was the second leg of a Group One double for the Middleham yard after the success of Gear Up in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud 24 hours earlier.

Seventh in the St Leger at Doncaster on his previous start, Subjectivist showed staying was his game when making all the running over just short of two miles in the hands of Joe Fanning.

The son of Teofilo had to dig deep to keep his rivals at bay and was not helped by hanging to the left in the straight, with it later transpiring a front shoe had come loose. It failed to stop him, however, as he kept on stoutly to beat Valia by two lengths.

Holdthasigreen, the winner in 2018, took the third spot he also occupied last year, while Tony Mullins’ Irish raider Princess Zoe was fourth, never really looking like repeating her victory in the Prix du Cadran of three weeks earlier.

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“It was absolutely brilliant and I’m over the moon for everybody involved,” said Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father.

“Plan A had been to go to Ascot for the champions stayers’ (Long Distance Cup), but when we saw Stradivarius and a few others were declared we thought we’d reroute to France – the added bonus being it’s a Group One. We felt it was going to be a weaker race and it proved to be the right decision.

“The lad who led him up said he was quite fresh in the paddock and Joe said he was quite keen on the way down to the start. I think he benefited from being that bit fresher.

“Having a slightly longer break was good for the horse and also the ground is a real positive for him and a real stamina test over this trip has helped as well.”

He added: “From the middle part of this year we were thinking he’s going to be a Cup horse for next year and hopefully we could have his big brother Sir Ron Priestley back aiming for the same kind of races. That would be nice problem, and not forgetting Nayef Road as well.”

Subjectivist was quoted at 20-1 for the Ascot Gold Cup with Paddy Power.

Johnston pointed towards the Derby at Epsom as Gear Up’s main objective in 2021.

“This was a bit of a reroute. After he won the Acomb, the plan was probably to go for the Royal Lodge and then the Vertem Futurity.

“Although we thought we had a genuine excuse in the Royal Lodge, with the way the race had been run and it wasn’t a true test of stamina, it slightly dented our confidence.

“As a result we thought we’d go for the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, which was guaranteed to be more of a test of stamina and a slightly weaker race than Doncaster, although when (Dewhurst runner-up) Wembley got withdrawn (at Doncaster) I was thinking maybe we should be there rather than Paris, but thankfully it all worked out great.

“Gear Up was one of six yearlings we bought for the Teme Valley syndicate, who wanted to buy a horse to go and win the Derby. We’ve got a Group One-winning two-year-old now and it looks like the Derby is going to be his principal target for the first half of the year.

“When you’ve won a Group One at two in many ways the options are few and far between in the first half of the year.

“There’s a lot of water to run under the bridge between now and then, but the obvious plan for him next year would be the Dante, then the Derby.”

Princess Zoe still thriving in search of famous ParisLongchamp double

Tony Mullins is hopeful Princess Zoe can go close in her bid to complete a famous Group One double in the Prix Royal-Oak at ParisLongchamp.

The remarkable mare has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being bought from Germany this year, progressing from a mark of 64 when second on her Irish debut at Navan in June to claim top-level honours in the Prix du Cadran three weeks ago.

The five-year-old will be bidding for a sixth successive win on her return to Paris on Sunday, with Seamie Heffernan taking over in the saddle from suspended apprentice Joey Sheridan.

Mullins said: “Hopefully it’s not too quick a return. We wouldn’t be here if we saw any evidence that it was, but you’re not really going to know until the last 200 metres on Sunday – that will be the acid test.

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“Everything has gone according to plan, and we don’t see any problems at the moment.

“We think we’re in as good a form as we were the last day, if not better.”

Princess Zoe is set to face seven rivals in the two-mile contest, with British hopes carried by the Mark Johnston-trained Subjectivist.

Mullins views Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Valia, winner of the Prix Chaudenay on Arc weekend, as the chief threat to his stable star.

He added: “We see the Aga Khan filly and Mark Johnston’s horse as the two dangers. I think more the Aga Khan filly, who is a possible improver.

“She’ll have to improve again, I think, but it’s very possible that she will.”

Subjectivist has enjoyed a fine campaign for the Johnston team, with a wide-margin victory in the Group Three March Stakes at Goodwood the undoubted highlight.

Subjectivist comes home clear in the March Stakes
Subjectivist comes home clear in the March Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Teofilo colt was last seen finishing seventh in the St Leger at Doncaster.

Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “If you had asked me a month ago where he was going to go, I would have said the Long Distance Cup at Ascot last weekend – that was Plan A.

“But then when Stradivarius turned up and Aidan (O’Brien) declared everything he did, it looked a deeper field than we expected it to be, so at the last minute we decided to give it a swerve and go for the Royal-Oak. Looking at it, I think it’s the right decision.

“The trip is a little bit of an unknown – you are always a little bit hesitant with him because of his run style and how he likes to get on with things.

“Princess Zoe needed every yard of the two and a half miles last time, and I would like to think over this trip we might have too much class for her. Our horse will handle the conditions and goes there with a good chance.”

Heffernan to deputise on Princess Zoe in Royal-Oak

Seamie Heffernan will take over in the saddle from suspended apprentice Joey Sheridan when Princess Zoe bids to double her Group One tally in the Prix Royal-Oak at ParisLongchamp.

The Tony Mullins-trained mare has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being bought from Germany this year, progressing from a mark of 64 when second on her Irish debut at Navan in June to claim top-level honours in the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend.

The five-year-old will be bidding for a sixth successive win on her return to Paris on Sunday, but is in need of a new partner after Sheridan received a hefty suspension for his use of the whip aboard her in the Cadran at the start of this month.

Multiple Group One-winning jockey Heffernan has been booked, and got to know his big-race mount in a workout over the weekend.

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“She’s as fit as she can be,” said Mullins.

“Seamie sat on her on Sunday – he was very happy with her, and we were very happy with him.

“Joey is obviously suspended, which is a shame. He got six days for too many strikes with the whip, and they doubled the penalty because it was a Group One – which is a rule I couldn’t find in any rule book anywhere. Anyway, that’s the way it goes.

“We’re very happy with the mare. All I can say is that in the back of my mind I’m thinking a two-and-a-half-mile race less than three weeks ago has to take its toll at some stage, but there is no evidence at the moment, so we’re set to go.

“We’ve done all our blood tests, and everything is perfect. I would say the next one is the acid test, in the last 100 metres next Sunday.”

Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at Galway
Tony Mullins with Princess Zoe at Galway (PA)

Princess Zoe is already priced up as ante-post favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with some bookmakers, and owners Paddy Kehoe and his sister Philomena Crampton are keen on a jumping career.

However, Mullins wants to see how she performs on Sunday before making any firm plans.

He added: “The owner has expressed an interest in that (jumping).

“I’m not saying he’s right or wrong – only that it ups your chance of injury with a very valuable mare.

“We’ll probably readdress it again next Sunday, but at the moment all I can say is it’s not off the table yet.”

Quinn content with performances from ParisLongcamp trio

John Quinn was proud of his three runners who put up admirable performances in defeat in two of the Group One races at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

Liberty Beach and Keep Busy finished third and fifth respectively in the Prix de l’Abbaye, while Safe Voyage was third in the Prix de la Foret.

For a moment, the North Yorkshire trainer thought Liberty Beach might lift the big sprint prize in the hands of Frankie Dettori, only to go down by half a length behind Wooded, with Keep Busy sticking on well to be beaten two lengths in all.

“They ran very well. Liberty Beach ran great. It looked like maybe she was going to do it, she just got beat, but she ran really well,” said Quinn.

“Keep Busy was flat out, but finished well. She ran a good race and wasn’t beaten far.”

Safe Voyage put in good late work behind One Master and Earthlight, beaten half a length as the winner sealed a record hat-trick of victories in the Foret.

“It looked like they were going to get away from him, but he battled back and was nearly going to get up, but the winning post came too soon,” the trainer said.

Quinn is no rush to make plans for the trio, adding: “We’ll let the dust settle before deciding what we do with them.”

Breeders’ Cup in the mix as Sealiway and Barzalona demolish Lagardere rivals

Sealiway absolutely relished the testing conditions as he turned the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere into a procession at ParisLongchamp.

Trained by Ferderic Rossi, the Galiway colt appeared to have a bit to find on the form book with the overseas runners, with a second in a Group Three last time out the best of his form.

That was a good deal removed from Clive Cox’s Nando Parrado, who caused a 150-1 shock at Royal Ascot and proved that was no fluke when chasing home Campanelle in the Prix Morny.

He was keen early for Christophe Soumillon, as Mick Channon’s Cairn Gorm set only steady fractions, understandably in the very soft ground.

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Nando Parrado was well placed to strike when the small field entered the false straight, but as Cairn Gorm began to back pedal, it was Sealiway who hit the front and Nando Parrado had no answer.

The race was over as a contest on entering the final half a furlong and although there was little between the others, with Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices sticking to his task gamely on the rail to claim third, Sealiway was a country mile in front of Nando Parrado.

For Rossi, who won the French 1000 Guineas with Dream And Do earlier this season, he appears to have another Classic contender on his hands, while it was another Group One for Mickael Barzalona.

Rossi said: “I’ve always thought he was a Group One horse, but to go away in that final straight was impressive.

“The initial plan was to run in the Prix Morny, but we very quickly realised that distance would not be to his advantage and he needed a longer trip.

“We decided to ride him differently and I told Mickael Barzalona to ride him the English way – let the horse him express himself and go early.

“The owners are happy to travel with this horse and he could go to the Breeders’ Cup. We will discuss that first before thinking about next year.”

He added: “For 15 minutes after Alkuin was just beaten by Princess Zoe in the Cadran (on Saturday), it was hard, but today is more the satisfaction of having trained a horse I have always believed in.

“From the beginning of the year I thought he was a proper Group One horse.”

O’Brien horses withdrawn from Arc following positive samples

Aidan O’Brien’s four planned runners in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe have all been withdrawn from the race after positive urine samples indicated the presence of a banned substance from contaminated feed.

O’Brien was due to field Japan, Sovereign, Mogul and Serpentine against Enable at ParisLongchamp on Sunday, as John Gosden’s mare bids to win the great race for an unprecedented third time.

None of the quartet will, however, take part after it emerged late on Saturday evening that they have tested positive for a banned substance, believed to be zilpaterol – potentially from batches of feed supplied by Gain Equine Nutrition.

On Friday, the supplier confirmed that it is “investigating the potential presence of a contaminant in some batches of our equine feed range”.

The absence of O’Brien’s runners was announced via a Tweet on the official account of O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard.

It read: “Unfortunately the results of the urine samples taken from the horses yesterday have come back positive from the French laboratory.

“There is a possibility that the contaminant may have left their system by the time of racing tomorrow – however we have no guarantee of this, and in order to protect the integrity of racing we have decided to withdraw all our horses from racing tomorrow.

“Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien will do likewise.”

O’Brien’s two sons each had leading Group One contenders due to race on Sunday.

Donnacha’s Fancy Blue was declared in the Prix de l’Opera, while his older brother Joseph had Pretty Gorgeous in the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac.

Princess Zoe completes meteoric rise with last-gasp Cadran verdict

Princess Zoe completed her fairytale story with a dramatic last-gasp victory in the Group One Qatar Prix du Cadran at ParisLongchamp.

Ridden by apprentice Joey Sheridan, who was unable to claim his allowance, Princess Zoe reeled in long-time leader Alkuin just yards from the finish to snatch the two-and-a-half mile stamina test.

Rated just 64 when runner-up on her first outing for Irish trainer Tony Mullins after been previously trained in Germany, the five-year-old has gone from strength to strength in a short space of time.

Having won three handicaps, Princess Zoe lifted a Listed contest at Galway on her latest outing, tempting connections to aim high. They were proved right as she reduced a big deficit to score by half a length at the highest level.

Princess Zoe was at least six lengths down with less than two furlongs to run, but she would not be denied as she reeled in Alkuin. Favourite Call The Wind was a further 15 lengths back in third.

Mullins said: “I certainly didn’t think three months ago this as going to happen, but Joey Sheridan came down to work her last week and when she pulled up, I said we were going to win in France.

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“She just kept improving so fast, even before the Listed race she won – I had been eyeing it because she was improving at such a rate I wasn’t able to keep up to her.

“As the season was closing, and she was improving so fast, I was just very confident.”

The original plan to send Princess Zoe for next year’s Cheltenham Festival has been scrapped, at least for the time being.

“The owner (Paddy Kehoe) and his sister (Philomena) are huge Cheltenham fans and we had her pencilled in. Then she started improving so fast I said to Paddy ‘we’ll go to France and if she wins I’ll be recommending she doesn’t go jumping’, not for the moment anyway,” said Mullins.

The County Kilkenny handler will even consider next year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe if the ground was suitable.

“Our plan now is to go anywhere there is not firm ground. I don’t mind good ground. That may even be the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe next year,” he said.

“This is just an unbelievable mare. I just can’t explain how I’m feeling now.”

Mullins recalled a big day as a jump jockey when he rode Dawn Run to victory in the French Champion Hurdle at nearby Auteuil for his late father, Paddy.

“At Auteuil, on the other side of the Bois de Boulogne, I won the French Champion Hurdle on Dawn Run in 1984, so it’s 36 years and that was a great day too,” he said.

“When you’re training seven days a week with the horse, you’re so much more involved and worried all the time.

“A jockey is very important, but he sits up at the last minute. As a jockey I used to love it – as a trainer, to win a Group One is just off the scale.”

Sheridan, 18, cannot believe his luck in only his second season as a jockey.

“I got a lot of confidence off Tony. I rode her work the last time. He couldn’t have had her any more right for today,” said the 5lb claimer.

“On her form, she had every right to be here.

“It means everything – it’s a dream come true. From riding ponies at home, seven years later to be winning a Group One is the stuff of dreams. It’s a fairytale. It’s only my second year riding.”

Menuisier ponders 2021 Arc after Wonderful Tonight’s Royallieu victory

David Menuisier has next year’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in mind for Wonderful Tonight, after she gave him a first Group One in his native country in the Qatar Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp.

Menuisier, the Sussex-based but French-born trainer, and owner Christopher Wright had thought about supplementing the lightly-raced filly for Sunday’s showpiece this year – only to stick to their original plan, and see it come to fruition.

With just seven career starts to her name, the three-year-old daughter of Le Havre is set to stay in training in 2021 – and it is possible too she may run again this term in the British Champions Fillies’ And Mares Stakes at Ascot, after having her odds halved from 16-1 to 8-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Wonderful Tonight was sent off the 7-2 favourite for the Royallieu, having won a Group Three race in Deauville and finished a creditable fifth in the Prix Vermeille last month.

Jockey Tony Piccone had her well-positioned just off the pace set by Frankie Dettori on Miss Yoda for John Gosden – with the Ralph Beckett-trained Manuela De Vega on his heels and Pista, trained by Joseph O’Brien, not far away.

Piccone made his move early in the home straight, and Wonderful Tonight kicked on over two furlongs out. She drifted towards the stands side – while her nearest pursuer, Pista, spoilt her chance by going the other way towards the far rail.

Wonderful Tonight maintained the gallop throughout the entire mile-and-three-quarter trip to score by a length and a quarter from Pista.

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The first two drew five lengths clear of Ebaiyra in third place.

Menuisier said: “I am so proud of the filly. She is very tough, and I think it was a well-deserved win, because she didn’t do it the easy way – she won the hard way.

“She was still a bit keen throughout, and I think it’s greenness. She’s not a filly that pulls or whatever. She’s still not the finished article. There is, in my opinion, bags of improvement to come in the way she does things.

“I’m over the moon.”

Menuisier is in no rush just yet to commit her to Ascot, though.

“She’s entered ,and I can’t say either way,” he added.

“We will see how she comes out of the race obviously. It’s in two weeks’ time – and (we’ll) see if the track is still waterlogged!

“We need to play it by ear. She might be kicking and bucking in five days, because she is a bit like that. If she does we might think about it.”

“She will stay in training, all being well, and the main target will be the Arc next year.

“We had a discussion about supplementing her this year. It was tongue in cheek, or maybe it wasn’t. If I had known Love wasn’t running maybe I would have pushed even harder to supplement her.

“She was really well – and receiving weight from the older horses, she would have gone quite far. I’m not saying she would have won, but I think she would not have been far away. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge.”

Menuisier recalled how he came to acquire the filly for 40,000 euros at Arqana August Yearling Sales in France.

“She was unsold in the ring,” he said.

“I knew the breeders, and they asked me to look at her. I loved the way she walked – she was light on her feet, like a spider. She was such a good mover.

“On the same day, Chris Wright sold the top lot to Godolphin – I went to congratulate him, and the discussion went on to something else.

“I told him about this filly – saying she didn’t look much, because she was a backward filly, but once she’s come together she could be a good purchase.

“They only wanted 40,000 euros and he said ‘OK – if you like her, have her vetted, and buy her’. And that’s what we did.”

Nando expected to relish Parisian mud

Clive Cox reports Nando Parrado in fine form as he heads to the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at ParisLongchamp.

The Kodiac colt was a shock 150-1 winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, and his Lambourn trainer is full of hope for a big run with the ground in his favour on Sunday.

“I’m very pleased, because he is in excellent form, and it gives me confidence knowing that he will handle the conditions – that is a great plus, given the weather forecast,” said Cox.

“He has enjoyed a tremendous season already, with winning the Coventry and being second in the Morny. This a race that we are pleased to be stepping up to seven furlongs in.”

Mick Channon’s Cairn Gorm, who was eighth in the Morny, is the other British raider in a six-strong field.

“I was very pleased with him in the Morny, because it was very testing ground,” said Channon.

“He ran a nice race, but was clearly doing his best work in the closing stages – which is why we are stepping up to the seven on Sunday.

“I think his pedigree would suggest this will bring more out of him, especially on the dam’s side. He has had a good time between his races.“

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Fev Rover carries plenty of confidence in the Prix Marcel Boussac.

A Group Two winner at Deauville on her latest start, the Richard Fahey-trained filly is owned by Nick Bradley Racing 43 And Partner.

Bradley said: “She’s in serious form at home.

“I spoke to Richard (Fahey) on Friday morning, and she’s a lot more professional than when Ben (Curtis) last rode her at Sandown.

“We are drawn eight – which looks a good draw, bearing in mind (likely favourite) Pretty Gorgeous is drawn 14.”

Jean-Claude Rouget admits being surprised by Tawkeel, who bids to take her perfect record to six out of six in the Prix de l’Opera.

“She doesn’t share that characteristic that has bedevilled other members of the same family that I’ve trained, in the sense that they’ve made flying starts to their career – which they haven’t backed up,” he said.

“She, on the contrary, has done nothing but progress – and each time, she has astonished me. In the Opera, we will be seeking to maintain her unbeaten record.”

James Fanshawe’s Audarya caused an upset in the Group One Prix Jean Romanet on soft ground, but her trainer cannot be sure she will handle conditions at the weekend.

“It was very holding ground when she won the Romanet at Deauville,” said Fanshawe.

“I don’t think anyone can really judge how a horse is going to go on this ground until they get on it, though – because heavy ground at different courses always varies.

“She’s in good form. She obviously goes well on soft ground – whether she goes on what it will be, we’ll see on Sunday.”

John Quinn has no concerns about the ground for Safe Voyage in the Prix de la Foret.

The seven-year-old is the oldest horse in the field, but arrives in Paris on the back of winning a pair of Group Two contests.

“He is in great form,” said Quinn.

“Jason (Hart) knows him and rides him very well, so we are hoping he’ll run well and hope he can win.

“Soft ground is fine for him.”

Safe Voyage was fourth 12 months ago to the William Haggas-trained One Master, who goes for a third win in the race, while Andre Fabre’s Earthlight is among the strong opposition.

Slippers bids for historic Abbaye double

Jockey Tom Eaves believes Glass Slippers has what it takes to become the fifth dual winner of the Prix de l’Abbaye at ParisLongchamp.

Lochsong was the last to complete back-to-back victories in 1993 and 1994, and Glass Slippers’ prospects of repeating her success 12 months ago have been boosted by the withdrawal of Battaash due to the testing conditions on Sunday.

Plenty of cut in the ground holds no fears for the Kevin Ryan-trained filly, who appears to thrive at this time of year.

After being beaten by Battaash on her first two starts this term, the four-year-old showed she was coming to form at the right time with victory in the Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh last month.

“It was soft ground last year, and she won it well,” said Eaves.

“She has come out of Ireland well, and we are looking forward to Sunday.

“She’s in good form, and came to herself at this time last year.”

Glass Slippers has been drawn wide in stall 10 of the 11 runners, which some pundits see as a negative – but that does not worry Eaves.

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“I’ll ride her as I find her, as normal – she’s quite versatile like that,” he added.

“She’s got form on the track. She’s won there twice and she’s got form on slow ground – (so) it’s fingers crossed.”

Keep Busy and Liberty Beach were second and seventh respectively behind Glass Slippers at the Curragh.

They are both trained by John Quinn, who is expecting a bold show from them.

“They are two good fillies,” said the North Yorkshire handler.

“Liberty Beach has had a good year. She has run well every time – maybe she was a bit disappointing at Goodwood, but they aren’t machines. She ran well at the Curragh, but didn’t get much luck.

“She has form on soft ground. She ran well in the Queen Mary on soft ground last year, and she’s fit and well.

“Keep Busy is in very good form. She ran very well at the Curragh and she relishes soft ground.

“I think they will run well – and that one of them will win! We are hoping for a bit of luck.”

With the mud flying, hopes are also high the Denis Hogan-trained Make A Challenge will make his presence felt.

The five-year-old has been in tremendous form this season and will again be ridden by Joe Doyle, who said: “By the sound of things, it is going to be plenty testing. Our lad would love it to be up to his knees – he’s absolutely exceptional on very soft ground.

“I don’t think I would swap my lad for anything else in the race if it turns up to be very testing.

“I think he has come on from the last day (fifth to Glass Slippers) – perhaps he was getting it a little easy at Listed level, and I think the last day just sharpened him up. He’s going to have to be sharp – take nothing for granted, it is a massive task in front of him.

“The horse is in savage order – and if things go right for us, he could run an absolutely massive race.”

Meanwhile, James Fanshawe believes it is worth taking a punt with Archer’s Dream – because she too will relish the underfoot conditions.

“The Abbaye closed early, so we had her entered,” said the Newmarket trainer.

“She could have run in the Rous Stakes at Ascot (subsequently abandoned for waterlogging on Saturday) – but with all the rain in France, we decided to give it a go.

“She’s got a bit to find, but is very well. She travelled very well to the furlong pole in the Haydock Sprint Cup and will love the ground.”

Battaash bypasses Abbaye due to testing ground

Battaash has been ruled out of Sunday’s Prix de l’Abbaye due to concerns over the testing ground at ParisLongchamp.

The six-year-old is unbeaten in three starts this term for Charlie Hills, having bagged the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, the King George Stakes at Goodwood and the Nunthorpe at York on his most recent outing in August.

He had been due to have a fourth crack at the Abbaye this weekend, having won the race in 2017 and finished fourth in 2018 before coming home a disappointing 14th on very soft ground last year.

The prospect of similar conditions this year following a wet week in Paris has forced connections into a rethink.

Hills said: “They have had 13 millimetres of rain overnight, added to the rest earlier in the week.

“I think it was 4.1 on the penetrometer last year and it’s probably going to be the same, if not worse than that, this year, so we won’t be running.”

When asked if Battaash could now head to next month’s Breeders’ Cup meeting, Hills replied: “We’ll have to see how he is.

“There’s one obvious race for him in America, but we’ll just have to see.”

Peter Brant backing Sottsass to play leading role in Arc

Owner Peter Brant will look to Sottsass to realise his dream of winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

Triptych finished third in two Arcs for Brant back in the 1980s and it falls to the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Sottsass to carry his hopes again this year.

The four-year-old came close to victory when third last year, and American industrialist Brant – who is steeped in racing history as both an owner and breeder – remains just as eager as ever for glory in the 12-furlong Group One showpiece.

He told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “I can only say of any race in the world, I would most like to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, mostly because it’s kind of the European championship in many ways.

“It’s the classic distance of a mile and a half and it really involves three or four years of horses, which means that you’re really going through light years to heavy years on talent and it’s a much difficult kind of race to win.”

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Sottsass arguably had more obvious claims last term, having won the Prix du Jockey Club and Prix Niel on his way to the big day, while this term he has won just one of his four outings, taking the Prix Ganay at Chantilly in June.

The Siyouni colt was last seen finishing two lengths behind Magical when fourth in the Irish Champion Stakes, but Brant – who has owned and bred Kentucky Derby winners and has engaged again with the sport in recent years – believes Rouget will have his runner primed for what has been the ultimate target.

He said: “I think he’s a really superior horse, no doubt. He won the French Derby impressively and won his race before that very impressively.

“He’s won on all different kinds of grounds – soft and firm. I think he broke the track record for the French Derby and he won impressively beating Persian King, who’s proven himself to be a very good horse.

“It’s a very good field and I think he’s an excellent horse.

“I think Jean-Claude Rouget has really pointed the horse to this race and as he does many times, he picks a spot that he’s going to run to.

“He’s a very sound horse, I don’t think he’s been overtrained or undertrained and I think he goes to the race well.”

France Galop reported at total of 14.4 millimetres of rain had fallen this week at ParisLongchamp up to Wednesday morning, leaving the ground very soft.

It was very soft when Sottsass was beaten by both Waldgeist and the reopposing Enable last year year, and Brant feels the ground offers an unknown factor.

He added: “This kind of ground, you never know who’s going to like it or not – it depends how much it rains. It could be good to soft which would be fine, or it could be really soft.

“Last year the grass was a bit new and it wasn’t a really good course to run on. I think Enable suffered running on that course, but there were great horses in the race and it was a great race.”

Battaash remains in Abbaye mix at latest stage

Battaash remains on course to try to regain his Prix de l’Abbaye crown against 13 potential rivals, including last year’s winner Glass Slippers.

Charlie Hills’ brilliant sprinter is also joined in the possible field for Sunday’s five-furlong Group One at ParisLongchamp by five further British challengers.

As well as Glass Slippers, who prevailed on soft ground 12 months ago when Battaash fell untypically short back in 14th of 16, Hills’ star may this time also come up against Denis Hogan’s Irish hope Make A Challenge.

The five-year-old was unable to contain Flying Five Stakes winner Glass Slippers when only fifth at the Curragh this month, but previously won four of six starts up to Group Two level this summer.

Among the home challenge in the Abbaye, after Wednesday’s forfeits but in advance of a supplementary stage which pertains for all Sunday’s Group Ones, bar the showpiece Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is the sole two-year-old still in the reckoning, Jane Soubagne’s filly Livachope.

Air De Valse (Corine Barande-Barbe) and Wooded (Francis Graffard), first and second over course and distance this month, also fly the French flag.

The British contingent is completed by Liberty Beach and Flying Five runner-up Keep Busy, both from John Quinn’s North Yorkshire yard, James Fanshawe’s Archer’s Dream, Robert Cowell’s Rocket Action and James Bethell’s Moss Gill.

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Four further Group Ones on the stellar card see Ireland remain very well-represented in the Prix de l’Opera, including the first three from the French Oaks.

Donnacha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue won by a short neck in a blanket finish at Chantilly in July, from Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star and his father Aidan’s Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Peaceful.

Completing a possible Irish quintet over 10 furlongs is another three-year-old, O’Brien senior’s Laburnum, and Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa – following her surprise success in the Prix Vermeille.

There are three British challengers, in the shape of John Gosden’s Terebellum, Fanshawe’s long-priced Deauville Group One winner Audarya and Ralph Beckett’s long-absent Feliciana De Vega.

Leading the home contenders is Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and Jean-Claude Rouget’s unbeaten three-year-old Group One winner Tawkeel.

In the Prix de la Foret, over seven furlongs, William Haggas’ One Master currently has 14 potential rivals as she seeks a third successive victory in the race.

Three fellow British contenders could stand in her way – Quinn’s Safe Voyage, who beat One Master at York last month, and Supreme Stakes one-two, Andrew Balding’s Happy Power and Richard Fahey’s Toro Strike.

Lancaster House and Lope Y Fernandez may travel for O’Brien, while his son Joseph has Speak In Colours.

Andre Fabre’s three-year-olds Earthlight and Tropbeau are principal French hopes.

Clive Cox’s Nando Parrado is one of nine juveniles left in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.

The shock Coventry Stakes winner, runner-up in the Prix Morny since, may face fellow British hopes Megallan, for Gosden, and Mick Channon’s Cairn Gorm.

St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley could represent O’Brien, while Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices is another possible from Ireland.

The three-strong home team comprises Xaario, Sealiway and Selket.

There are still 19 two-year-old fillies in the Prix Marcel Boussac – including Fahey’s Deauville Group Two winner Fev Rover as one of four possible British runners.

The others are Mark Johnston’s Dubai Fountain, the Hills-trained Prado and Lilac Road, from Haggas’ Newmarket yard.

Group Three winners Divinely and Mother Earth may represent O’Brien, whose son Joseph still has Moyglare Stud Stakes runner-up Pretty Gorgeous in the reckoning. Condon’s Thunder Beauty may also travel from Ireland.

Gosden full of hope ahead of Enable’s date with destiny

John Gosden is confident Enable is “ready to put in a big, bold effort” as she bids again for a historic third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

The brilliant mare suffered just the second of only three career defeats in 18 starts 12 months ago when she was agonisingly caught deep in the final furlong by Waldgeist on rain-softened ground, as she sought an unprecedented hat-trick in the great race.

After owner Khalid Abdullah chose to keep her in training as a six-year-old for another shot at the Arc, Gosden has been clear throughout that this Sunday is the date that matters above all for her and jockey Frankie Dettori.

He is mindful of tough opposition, headed by Aidan O’Brien’s dual Classic-winning filly Love and including his own three-time Ascot Gold Cup hero Stradivarius, in a field of 15 following Tuesday’s forfeit stage – with the possibility of supplementary entries on Wednesday.

Enable has once more won the King George at Ascot
Enable has once more won the King George at Ascot (Hugh Routledge/PA)

Gosden is satisfied, however, that he has Enable in the right shape – having begun her campaign by finishing second to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse at Sandown and then winning Ascot’s King George and the September Stakes at Kempton, as she did en route to Paris two years ago.

Assessing her season so far, he said on Paddy Power’s podcast From The Horse’s Mouth: “I think she’s found it more difficult – she’s older and bigger and heavier, and getting to race fitness.

“I went gently at it – it was a struggle, though, and when I ran her in the Eclipse, I was very clear with everyone beforehand that the race would put her right.

“She went there at 80 per cent, and the race did put her right – she went and won the King George.

“She’s been in good form since – she had a nice breeze round in the September Stakes, nothing too taxing for her because the Arc has been the target all year.”

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Enable did everything that was asked of her in the September Stakes
Enable did everything that was asked of her in the September Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Unlike two years ago, there have been no hitches since then.

Gosden added: “She’s happy and well in herself – Frankie breezed her on the round gallop on the Limekilns on Saturday and he was very pleased with her.

“It’s still a few days to go – and she’s ready to put in a big, bold effort.

“We’re perfectly aware how tough the race is, and we’re perfectly aware how tough the opposition is.”

With age, Gosden acknowledges, the task facing Enable is a different one.

“I think she was overwhelmingly the best as a three-year-old, getting the weight in her first Arc,” he said.

“The second Arc, she struggled, had an injury, came back (and) won in the September Stakes, then got sick and then went to the Arc.

“She’d missed some work but she hung in there – and last year she ran a blinder.

“I think we all went a stride (too) quick and all moved a little bit soon for the conditions – let’s hope we can go one better this year.

“But we’re totally aware that (with) the favourite (Love, who has drifted to second-favourite behind Enable) getting all the weight, it’s a mighty task giving that weight.

“Having said that, we benefited from it when we were a three-year-old winning the Arc, so we can’t exactly complain now!”

Gosden’s unbeaten 2019 St Leger winner Logician has been taken out of the Arc, and will instead head to Ascot’s Group Two Cumberland Lodge Stakes on Saturday.

Super stayer Stradivarius remains on course to test himself against Europe’s best middle-distance horses, though, having pleased his trainer when runner-up in the Prix Foy.

Encouraged by that performance, Gosden said: “I thought for a horse who’s a Gold Cup winner, he showed great acceleration in the straight – going down by half a neck to Anthony Van Dyck, who seems to have found his form again.

“I thought it was a very good trial from both of them – and the horses behind, the French horses, could never get to them.”

Stradivarius left the opposition toiling in the Gold Cup at Ascot
Stradivarius left the opposition toiling in the Gold Cup at Ascot (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Stradivarius has since been in fine form at home, and Gosden is no longer concerned about the prospect of soft ground.

“I’m very happy with him – he worked well on Saturday, with Rab Havlin on board, and he’s all ready to go,” he said.

“We’ve always thought of him as a top-of-the-ground horse, but he did somewhat surprise us in the Ascot Gold Cup this year.

“So we slightly revised our viewpoint – it seems that he handles most ground.”

Conditions have counted against a European adventure for Logician at this stage, however.

Gosden said: “I think the way the ground’s gone, at the moment I don’t want to put him through that kind of test right now, so he will run in the Cumberland Lodge at Ascot on Saturday.”