Tag Archive for: Prix Du Jockey Club

Vega has winning Look in Prix du Jockey Club

Look De Vega maintained his flawless record to land the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club for Carlos and Yann Lerner.

One of the market leaders along with Aidan O’Brien’s Diego Velazquez, the colt came into the race with two comfortable prior victories under his belt.

He broke well from the stalls and settled in behind the front runners under Ronan Thomas, keeping his powder dry until the home straight when others began to falter.

Then he picked up the lead, surging clear in the final two furlongs to cross the line comfortably ahead of First Look.

Sosie took third with the Clive Cox-trained Ghostwriter in fourth, while David Menuisier’s Sunway and Diego Velazquez finished down the field.

“The only thing we were a little bit worried about is that he came out of stall number three and everything had to go right at that moment,” said Yann Lerner.

“But when I saw him get into that good position, I have never watched a race as relaxed as I did this one.

“When we won at Fontainebleau (in November) we immediately thought about this race, he had a more or less perfect winter until February, where we had a little bit of a setback, that was the only dark point in the past.

“What is really incredible is his mental state, we hadn’t worked him a lot since his first seasonal reappearance.

“Between the two races he didn’t do much, we took him to the Chantilly track because it was very important to us that he could see the track.”

Look De Vega was cut from 33-1 to 8-1 with Coral for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Lerner added of the prospect of running there: “At the moment we don’t have any plans whatsoever, this was the big plan and he confirmed today what we thought of him.

“We will go home and recover and see how he is after this race, however he does have an entry in the Arc and I think he can stay the mile and a half, absolutely no doubt.

“The Arc can be a very tricky race and he can adapt to those conditions, he is a horse that ticks all the right boxes because he has shown today what he can do in the future.”

Thomas, for whom the success was a first at Group One level in France, said: “Obviously I am very, very happy, but more than anything I was so confident in this horse because I have been working with him since the end of last year and I was really impressed.

“He gave me a really good feeling, he won as we thought he would first time out and since then he’s made giant steps.

“Of course I respected my opposition today but I was always very confident.”



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Low draw pleases Cox for Ghostwriter’s Classic bid

Clive Cox was “very happy and relieved” to avoid a wide draw with Ghostwriter in Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

The son of Invincible Spirit carries rock-solid credentials into the French Derby after overcoming trouble in running to finish fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

That form has been franked by placed horses Rosallion and Haatem going on to dominate the Irish equivalent, while sixth-placed Inisherin dropped down in trip to secure an impressive success in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

With Ghostwriter having prevailed over a mile as a juvenile in the Royal Lodge and then staying on strongly in the Guineas, a step up in distance looks sure to suit the Jeff Smith-owned colt.

Cox said: “We’re very pleased with the two stall. With 15 runners, we’re very happy with that. We don’t have to worry about being out wide now, so thank goodness. We’re very happy and that’s definitely a piece of the jigsaw that has been sorted out.

“He’s in very good shape and we’re looking forward to travelling over. I really think stepping up to 10 furlongs will be beneficial for him and the ground is the same for every horse.

“He’s only performed on a quicker surface, so that’s a territory we’re just going to have to find out about, but I’m confident with the way he moves that he’ll handle himself on softer ground.

“We’ve had a good week so far and at this time of year it’s pleasing with some very nice races coming up.

“Ghostwriter’s main target was the Guineas to begin with and he ran a super race to finish fourth. Without a shadow of a doubt, the form of the Guineas is already showing how strong a Guineas it was.

“You have the first and second in the Irish Guineas and then the sixth horse winning the Sandy Lane. It’s very pleasing to see that form look so solid.

bet365 Spring Celebration – Sandown Park Racecourse – Friday 26th April
Trainer Clive Cox has plenty of faith in Ghostwriter (John Walton/PA).

“We’re looking forward to stepping up to a mile and a quarter, he’s out of a Champs Elysees mare and I very much believe that winning over a mile in the Royal Lodge last year gave us that confidence that with more strength we would be able to step up in trip.

“And after such a pleasing run in the Guineas, we’re really looking forward to it.”

Aidan O’Brien, who claimed this prize three years ago with St Mark’s Basilica, is also looking forward to trying Diego Velazquez over a longer trip.

The son of Frankel won the Group Two Golden Fleece Stakes over a mile at Leopardstown at two and was doing his best work at the business end when a close fourth in the French 2,000 Guineas first time out this term.

O’Brien said: “With Diego, we felt a mile is as short as he wanted to go and we thought a mile and a quarter might be his ideal trip.

“Obviously he could get further, but we always viewed him as a French Derby horse more than anything else.

“We thought and hoped Chantilly would suit him. Everything has gone very well since the French Guineas, he came out of it very well.

Leopardstown Races – Sunday 10th September
Diego Velazquez and Ryan Moore after winning at Leopardstown (Damien Eagers/PA).

“He stays and he’s uncomplicated. It was a very good run-out the last time, we were over the moon, and Christophe (Soumillon) was very happy with him as well.

“We definitely think he has plenty of class, especially for a mile-and-a-quarter horse.”

David Menuisier’s Sunway has been a beaten favourite in two starts this season but does have a Group One victory in France on his CV from last term, when upsetting the reopposing Alcantor in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on very soft ground.

Sunway (second right) represents David Menuisier
Sunway (second right) represents David Menuisier (Tim Goode/PA)

“One day, he’ll show the same class in the afternoon as he does in the morning,” said Menuisier. “Sunway proved last year that he was a very good horse and has a big race in him.”

Fast Tracker is rated the leading home hope by bookmakers, with the Henri-Alex Pantall-trained son of Churchill having been snapped up by Wathnan Racing since scoring by a wide margin at Listed level over this course and distance.

James Doyle takes the ride and Pantall said: “Fast Tracker is a straightforward ride as he races handily, doesn’t pull and he’ll be able to adapt. He exhibits just one flaw in his racing style, as he takes time to pick up when the pace quickens.”

Look De Vega is unbeaten after two outings for Carlos and Yann Lerner, while Ace Impact’s half-brother Arrow Eagle represents last year’s winning combination of trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and jockey Cristian Demuro.

Rouget also saddles Wahdan and Grecian Storm as he bids to complete a hat-trick of Prix du Jockey Club triumphs.



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Kingscote has chance to add French Derby honours to Epsom laurels

Clive Cox is backing Richard Kingscote to shine as he reunites with Ghostwriter in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

The Derby-winning jockey has ridden the Jeff Smith-owned colt in four of his three career starts to date, first partnering him on debut to take a Newmarket maiden back in August.

William Buick then took the ride when the son of Invincible Spirit won at Ascot the following month, but Kingscote returned to the saddle for a significant victory in the Royal Lodge back at Newmarket at the end of the season.

Ghostwriter made his three-year-old bow in the 2000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile, where he was steered to a most respectable fourth-placed finish by Kingscote in the opening colts’ Classic of the season, the form of which is already working out well.

Now the French Derby, beckons, where Kingscote will retain the ride as he bids to add the title to the Epsom win he secured aboard the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown in 2022.

“Richard will 100 per cent ride and I’m really pleased, he rode a superb Group Two winner for us in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday,” said Cox, referring to Kerdos’ weekend triumph.

“He’s won on him (Ghostwriter) twice and he rode him in the 2000 Guineas as well.”

Of the plan of attack this weekend, Cox added: “I don’t think he’s complicated, we can organise our plans according to how the draw provides us with choices.

“He is very versatile and very balanced, I’m more than happy. The better draw you get, the better you sleep at night, but in the meantime I’m happy that he’s a balanced horse and we will make our plans according to the draw.”



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Diego Velazquez to spearhead O’Brien’s Chantilly challenge

Diego Velazquez is Aidan O’Brien’s chief hope of winning a second Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

Impressive in his first two juvenile starts, the Frankel colt disappointed on his final appearance at two in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster, but his trainer is happy to “put a line through” that run as he feels he became upset by his unruly stablemate Battle Cry, who was ultimately withdrawn.

The Ballydoyle handler, who broke his French Derby duck with St Mark’s Basilica in 2021, believes Diego Velazquez is better judged on his comeback run at ParisLongchamp, where he was beaten just a length into fourth place in the French 2000 Guineas, teeing him up perfectly for a second French Classic tilt this weekend.

“That’s what we thought, our other horse got upset. He had to be taken out and obviously Diego was left in the race, and he got upset as well,” O’Brien said of his Doncaster effort in a France Galop media call on Tuesday.

“We just felt that being left in the stalls, we should have probably withdrew him. The ground was very soft as well that day. We kind of put a line through it.

“We were very happy with the run in the French Guineas. We always thought he would run a very nice race and we always thought the step up to mile and a quarter would suit him well. We were delighted to go to Longchamp because it is obviously right-handed like Chantilly.

“We felt these two races would suit him well and we were very happy with the way he came out of the French Guineas and happy with everything he has done since.”

With Diego Velazquez having failed to fire in the mud at Doncaster, O’Brien is hoping there is not too much rain at Chantilly ahead of his latest big-race test.

He added: “Obviously he is a very good mover so the better the ground, the better it would suit him.

“We thought he would probably want good, fast ground as you can see when you see him gallop he has a very low, long action.

“Hopefully the ground won’t be soft and will improve (before Sunday). Definitely the better the ground, the better his chance.”

Diego Velazquez is set to be joined by stablemate Cambridge, who so far this season has finished fourth in both the Craven Stakes at Newmarket and the Dante at York.

“Cambridge is a solid horse. Hopefully he can get a mile and quarter very well and he will handle an ease in the ground,” said O’Brien.

“We always thought he was a solid Group horse. Obviously our number one horse would be Diego Velazquez and Cambridge will be number two. He’s a very solid and straightforward horse really.

“He has a different action to Diego, he bends his knee a little bit. He might not be as quick as Diego, but he will definitely handle the soft ground a little bit better.”



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Ghostwriter expected to enjoy step up to French Derby distance

Ghostwriter will get the chance to further enhance the 2000 Guineas form when he runs in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

Clive Cox’s Newmarket fourth is one of 21 colts left in the French Derby and he has been buoyed by how the horses who finished in his vicinity in the race won by Notable Speech ran at the weekend.

The Richard Hannon pair of Rosallion and Haatem, second and third at HQ, dominated the Irish Guineas on Saturday, while Kevin Ryan’s Inisherin, who led for a long way before fading into sixth, lowered the colours of Vandeek in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.

“I’m very pleased indeed with him, he’s had a healthy timeframe between the Guineas and this weekend,” said Cox.

“He’s pleased me very much indeed and the form of the Guineas has worked out brilliantly, with Kevin’s horse winning as well as Richard’s two finishing first and second in Ireland, so we’re very happy.

“We’ve been looking forward to stepping him up to a mile and a quarter, more importantly. He did really well last year when he was unbeaten and winning over a mile at two would give us every indication that he should get a little bit further this year.

“I hope we fare well in the draw and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Diego Velazquez is well fancied for the French Derby
Diego Velazquez is well fancied for the French Derby (Damien Eagers/PA)

Also in contention this weekend from the UK and Ireland are Karl Burke’s Arabic Legend, John and Thady Gosden’s God’s Window, David Menuisier’s Sunway and the Aidan O’Brien pair of Diego Velazquez and Cambridge.

French Guineas winner Metropolitan and Henri-Alex Pantall’s Fast Tracker lead the home team.



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French Derby target for Guineas fourth Ghostwriter

They often say fourth in the Guineas, first in the Derby – and Clive Cox hopes that rings true for the French equivalent as well, as he eyes a trip to Chantilly for Ghostwriter following his fine effort in the 2000 Guineas.

Unbeaten as a two-year-old, the son of Invincible Spirit was sent off at 14-1 in the hands of Richard Kingscote for the opening Classic of the summer, overcoming a stumble exiting the stalls and also becoming unbalanced entering the dip to finish a respectable fourth behind impressive winner Notable Speech.

It was a performance that suggested Ghostwriter will thrive once upped in distance and although the colt holds an entry for the Betfred Derby at Epsom, Cox is keen to stick to 10 furlongs and place a bullseye on the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on June 2.

“I don’t think there was any doubt we saw a very impressive winner, but I’m very happy he ran very well,” said Cox.

“Things didn’t go entirely smoothly for him, but it’s certainly not a disappointing reflection. He just stumbled coming out of the stalls and also got a bit unbalanced coming into the dip as well.

“He’s come out of the race very well and I think as a mile winner at two who has undoubtedly done very well over the winner, I was very pleased with the performance, and I now think he will be helped by going a mile and a quarter at this stage.

“That would be our intention as long as he is fit and well. He’s done a very gentle canter this morning and I’m thrilled he has come out of the race really well.

“I hope he will continue his progress and I would say, after speaking with Jeff (Smith, owner) this morning, that the French Derby is going to be our likely target.”

Ghostwriter also holds an entry in York’s Dante Stakes later this month, but with a short span of time between the the Guineas and his French Classic assignment, Cox is willing to forego a fact-finding mission over 10 furlongs and cross the Channel with a freshened-up Derby contender.

Clive Cox was thrilled with Ghostwriter's Guineas efforts
Clive Cox was thrilled with Ghostwriter’s Guineas efforts (John Walton/PA)

“The Dante comes soon enough and although the Dante would be ideal, we were very keen to run in the Guineas and he justified that with a really solid run,” continued Cox.

“York will come soon enough and then the timeframe between the Guineas and the French Derby is probably going to be much more suitable.

“He’s a very nice horse and I’m just very pleased he has come out of the race well and we can now look forward to him going a mile and a quarter.”



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Head proud of Big Rock despite Prix du Jockey Club defeat

Connections of Big Rock will be in no rush to take on Ace Impact again after he was caught in the latter stages of the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

Ace Impact came from way off the pace to take the Group One laurels with a scintillating burst of speed, which resulted in a new track record over the extended 10 furlongs.

Big Rock was sent off favourite on the strength of four unbeaten starts since joining trainer Christopher Head. Those victories included a Listed success and a pair of Group Three contests.

Having made much of the running under Aurelien Lemaitre, Big Rock looked to have the race in safe keeping with a furlong to race, but had no answer as Cristian Demuro’s mount swept past and went on to record a three-and-a-half-length success.

While defeat may have been bitter-sweet, Head was far from despondent at the Rock Of Gibraltar colt’s first run beyond an extended nine furlongs.

“I am very happy, because the horse has come a long way,” said the handler.

“He has won a bunch of races already and it is possible he gets beaten by good horses in the Jockey Club. In terms of the (front-running) strategy, it was pretty straightforward.

“Of course you can be vulnerable when you are trying to go a longer distance with that strategy.

“It’s fair enough. I’m very happy. If it wasn’t for the horse who beat us, we would have won the Jockey Club by four lengths and everybody would be amazed.

“The jockey did everything right. He kicked at the right time and I thought we had it won.

“When I saw that horse (win) from so far back, you have to think it is probably a very top-class horse, one we are probably not going to encounter again.

“The track record was broken and certainly they are two good horses. Usually we don’t have that kind of pace and usually you don’t get to see the true quality of the horses. I’m pretty happy with that result.”

Head has not ruled out the possibility Big Rock will cross the Channel at some point, although it is unlikely he will be seen at trips beyond 10 furlongs again.

He added: “We still have to discuss with the owner where we go and there are a few nice options.

“Pretty much we are going to try to put him over a mile or 2000 metres (10 furlongs), but we will see. That will probably be the top of his distance, I would think.

“It is a possibility you will see him in Britain. I have a few options with a few races back there and it would be nice.”

Meanwhile, Blue Rose Cen, who gave the trainer a breakthrough Classic success in the French 1,000 Guineas, will bid to secure another when she heads for the French Oaks at Chantilly on Sunday week.

“She is doing very well and we are heading for the Prix de Diane,” added Head. “She is beautiful and came out of the race well.

“She is really a wonderful filly, as she has been a very nice two-year-old and now it seems she is capable of winning both the French Guineas and probably the Oaks.

“I don’t see the limit of her and we will see after that race what we do about her programme for the next part of the season.

“She looks very stable and that’s what we want. I’m very happy with her.”



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Feed The Flame hungry for French Derby success

Pascal Bary’s Feed The Flame will bid to maintain his flawless record in the Qatar Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday.

The son of Kingman did not run as a two-year-old and made his debut at ParisLongchamp in April, winning a maiden by five and a half lengths under Christophe Soumillon.

He then returned to the same track later that month to contest the Prix de Ferrieres, a race he won by a length and a quarter over a mile and three furlongs.

The exciting colt has not been seen since and returns to action to try to make it three from three in the French Derby.

“We gave him some time off after he won for the second time, even though he had won easily twice,” said Bary.

“After that we’ve built him up again for Sunday.

“On his debut the ground was perfect, next time it was very soft but there is a big cushion in the ground at the moment, so there’s no reason he won’t handle it.

“I don’t think the draw (stall six) is going to be an issue, there are not going to be that many runners, but you have to ride him the way that suits him anyway.

“Christophe has ridden him. He hasn’t had a retainer this year. He’s one of the best jockeys, so if you can get him it makes sense.

“I do think he will be better over a mile and a half, despite his pedigree, but I think he’ll be quicker on his feet on Sunday than he has been in the past.”

Christopher Head will aim for the second Classic winner of his career as Big Rock attempts to extend a unbeaten run that has seen him win all four starts this term.

After taking a handicap and a Listed event, the Rock Of Gibraltar colt landed two Group Threes in the Prix la Force and the Prix de Guiche and now steps up both in trip and in grade.

“We didn’t know the limits of this horse, that was before he ran in the Prix de Guiche, he then won it by five lengths,” said Head, who trains the brilliant filly Blue Rose Cen.

“When I talk about limits, what I mean is that I didn’t really know how far he could go and he has proven that he is a horse that has a lot of speed and who can go over that trip.

“The thing is with him is that he’s got that cruising speed, he travels at that cruising speed and you can see how he finishes and how he responds over that trip.”

Continuous and Ryan Moore
Continuous and Ryan Moore (Donall Farmer/PA)

Ryan Moore will partner Aidan O’Brien’s Continuous, a Heart’s Cry colt who was last seen dead-heating for third in the Dante at York.

Prior to that he was twice a winner as a two-year-old, taking a Curragh maiden and then the Group Three Prix Thomas Bryon at Chantilly.

Moore told Betfair: “This looks a very hot contest. We have the French 2000 Guineas winner Marhaba Ya Sanafi, the unbeaten and unexposed Feed The Flame, and the impressive Chantilly winner Big Rock in here, to name but three, but I do think Continuous has a good shot at this.

“I thought he shaped very promisingly indeed for me when dead-heating for third with Passenger in the Dante, a race in which he just got a bit tired late on, on his first start since September.

“I would have thought that race would have brought him on a good deal, and he is a colt I rate. It’s a very deep French Derby but he should go well.”

O’Brien added: “Continuous is well. We’re happy with everything he’s done and we always thought soft ground suited him. He went to York and did it, and if it’s soft he definitely won’t mind it.”

Marhaba Ya Sanafi, trained by Andreas Schutz, takes his chance after a short-neck success in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the French 2000 Guineas, last time out.

The sole British-trained runner is John and Thady Gosden’s Epictetus, second to Auguste Rodin in the Vertem Futurity Trophy as a juvenile, the winner of the Listed Blue Riband Trial on debut this year and then fifth in the Dante. Frankie Dettori takes the ride.

Andre Fabre’s Flight Leader joins Yann Barberot’s American Flag and Alessandro and Giuseppe Botti’s Winter Pudding in the line-up.

Jean-Claude Rouget has a trio or runners in Rajapour, Padishakh and the unbeaten Ace Impact.



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Feed The Flame ready to fire in Jockey Club test

Pascal Bary has confirmed his unbeaten colt Feed The Flame will be supplemented for Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

The son of Kingman was unraced at two after a series of niggly problems, which meant Bary did not consider him as a suitable candidate to be part of the original entries.

However, he made a winning debut earlier this year, triumphing by five and a half lengths at ParisLongchamp, before returning that venue to beat subsequent Prix Hocquart winner First Minister with ease.

Bary, who holds the best record in the Prix du Jockey Club among currently active trainers with six wins, said: “Feed The Flame had a few issues at two and it was only in February that he started to come to hand and he has improved throughout with each run.

“He has only run twice, but he is professional enough that he can handle the Prix du Jockey Club.

“He’s a very big horse and like all big horses, he needed time to grow into himself. At the time the entries were made I never thought he’d be running this Sunday, but he has been supplemented.

“He only made his debut six weeks ago. I thought he would win but I didn’t think he would win that easily.

“We then ran him again quickly because I felt if he had any chance of running in this, he would need time between a second run and a Classic. When he won easily again we then made the decision the supplement him.”

Christophe Soumillon will maintain his partnership on the colt, the trainer also reported.

Bary’s six winners in the French Derby are Celtic Arms (1994), Ragmar (1996), Dream Well (1998), Sulamani (2002), Blue Canari (2004) and Study of Man (2018), with Celtic Arms, Ragmar and Blue Canari all sporting the Jean-Louis Bouchard silks that Feed The Flame will wear.

A total of 12 horses remain from the original entries, with supplementary contenders officially announced on Wednesday.

Among his potential rivals are French Guineas winner Marhaba Ya Sanafi, Andre Fabre’s Flight Leader, Christopher Head’s Big Rock and John and Thady Gosden’s Epictetus.



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Monday Musings: Crown King for a Day?

Things move along rapidly in life in the 21st Century even if a certain English monarch has shown plenty of stickability, writes Tony Stafford. In the Coolmore box on Saturday after the authoritative triumph by Desert Crown in the Cazoo Derby, the main players were adamant we had all witnessed a superstar – one that might go all the way.

Even in his interview after the race, Sir Michael Stoute felt emboldened enough to declare him “promising”. Maybe he was saying, “seen it all before”, and I suppose he had all those years ago in Shergar, but promising? Hardly.

Maybe he was talking about his jockey. You would never have thought Richard Kingscote was having only his second mount in the race in a large field where more experienced big-race riders could easily have got caught up in the inevitable Epsom traffic that can envelop them on the wrong day.

But Kingscote, untroubled, could just as easily have been riding on a Friday evening at Haydock or Chester, the two tracks where he had best showcased his talents in the years he spent riding for the Tom Dascombe stable until Michael Owen’s mid-winter shake-up.

You need luck in this game. Sir Michael Stoute has never been a man in his half-century as a trainer to change his stable jockeys unduly, but Ryan Moore’s progressive unavailability with his Ballydoyle commitments meant there needed to be an available back-up.

In the past, Frankie Dettori might have been a contender for drafting in with Moore cemented to Coolmore, but Kingscote had moved south after leaving Manor House Stables and must have impressed Desert Crown’s trainer that he would do very nicely when he showed up to ride out at Freemason Lodge.

The son of Nathaniel, who before York had raced only once in a maiden at Nottingham last November, was obviously very talented. His trainer, though, was unsure whether Desert Crown could be readied in time for the Dante. Fortunately he was and Kingscote was on board, looking the part as they strolled home in what history has told us is always the best Derby trial.

All that was left was to beat the Godolphins and the Coolmores on Saturday, and this they did with panache, coming down the straight with a surge that took them past Moore and Stone Age as the Aidan O’Brien first string was battling to take control.

The consensus in the box afterwards was that Stone Age didn’t stay, along with a recognition that it would not have mattered if he had. The winner was supreme. It was going to take something special, they thought, to beat him.

That view held until mid-afternoon yesterday and, as is often the case when Coolmore don’t have the winner of a Classic, they still have more than a little to do with the breeding and production of it.

Step forward Vadeni, who swamped the front-running Modern Times for speed and drew effortlessly away in the last furlong of the Qatar Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly. He won by five lengths, avenging a defeat in a Group 3 on the track last September when third to James Ferguson’s El Bodegan. That colt battled on well to pip Modern Times for the runner-up spot.

The consolation for the Coolmore partners is that the winner was the result of an outsourcing by his breeder the Aga Khan, who sent Vadeni’s mother, Vaderami (an unraced daughter of the German stallion Monsun), to be one of the first group of mares to visit Churchill.

The quest is always how to replace – or in their wildest dreams – replicate Galileo. They’ve always thought Churchill was his quickest Classic son as the champion juvenile of his year and easy winner of both the Newmarket and Curragh 2,000 Guineas.

Having gone into this weekend as the sire of two Group 3 winners, Churchill now has a five-length winner of a Classic in a field of 15 where runner-up and third had already won at Group 1 level.

Churchill is, on a lower plane, the sire of one of my favourite handicappers, Brian Meehan’s Lawful Command, who has all the courage of his wonderful grandsire. That colt will keep on winning handicaps, but I bet Sam Sangster, who bought Lawful Command, will already be resigned that his yearlings will be priced out of most mortals’ budgets this autumn with the stud fee doing a similar exponential jump as Galileo’s did when his first three-year-olds began flexing their Classic muscles almost two decades ago. Not even his passing has stopped them twitching away!

I mentioned last week when discussing Desert Crown, that he might not have been the most obvious contender for winning a Derby. Not all products of Nathaniel, Frankel’s contemporary and three-quarter-length debut victim to the unbeaten champion, are high-class. Both colts of course were by Galileo, and Nathaniel will always be remembered as sire of the 21st Century’s best race-mare, Enable. He has been a great servant to Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire and Gary Coffee and Julian Dollar have every right in declaring him a steal at £15k too!

Desert Crown may well aspire to similar heights as Enable. There have been many examples of Michael Stoute horses developing from ordinary performers in their three-year-old season to international champions, like Singspiel and Pilsudski all those years ago. When they start out good, they rarely disappoint.

Sir Michael must still hanker after the days when he trained horses of the calibre of Shergar for the Aga Khan, but His Highness’s horses have for many years been centred in France and Ireland for racing and breeding. Long-term stud operations cannot be carried on at full effectiveness without regular injections of new talent and, on the day Churchill offered fresh impetus for Coolmore, the Aga Khan Studs unveiled their latest trump card.

There were three Aga Khan winners yesterday and, rather like the perfect Harry Kane hat-trick (left-foot, right-foot and a header – that’s for you Your Majesty, sorry about yesterday!) – they offered a bright vision of the future.

First in the 12f fillies’ Group 3, the Prix de Royaumont, Christophe Soumillon brought Baiykara, only second best in the market, with an irresistible run which provided a step-by-step dress rehearsal for their Classic show a little later on.

The extent of Vadeni’s success over ten-and-a -half furlongs had been even less anticipated than the filly’s win. You got the impression from winning trainer Jean-Claude Rouget that he might be thinking less about Longchamp in October for Valeni than Leopardstown the previous month. That was probably in line with Soumillon’s earlier murmurings about the Arc for Baiykara.

“I love that race, <the Irish Champion Stakes>”, said Rouget, who has now won five Jockey-Clubs and four of the last seven. Some people in racing seem to think this is the “cheaper” alternative to Epsom and, while Rouget will not hold that view, he did concede that there have been some less than top winners of the Chantilly race along with stars like last year’s hero and European Champion, St Mark’s Basilica. Then again, not every Epsom Derby winner enters the sport’s pantheon either.

The third Aga Khan winner, almost bizarrely, was a sprinter, although in the year when the Aga Khan studs are celebrating the 100 years since the colours of his grandfather, also the Aga Khan, were first seen on a racecourse. That year he bought the flying speckled grey filly Mumtaz Mahal and as well as proving a great racehorse herself, she appears in many of today’s pedigrees, often through her descendant Nasrullah.

Yesterday’s sprint winner was Rozgar, easy winner of the six-furlong Listed race, and while out of an Aga Khan-bred daughter of Sea The Stars, she is by the Darley sprint sire, Exceed and Excel.

Returning though to Baiykara, she is from the first crop of Zarak, a beautifully-bred young stallion, coincidentally listed in 2022’s brochure from the Aga Khan’s French stud, the Haras de Bonneval, at the same fee as Churchill, €25,000.

By Dubawi out of the unbeaten champion mare Zarkava, he did not quite live up to his exemplary breeding, but one of his four wins in 13 starts was at Group 1 level – the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud and he did just nudge the €1 million prize mark.

Zarak also had something to say later in the card, providing a cross-Channel win for the William Haggas stable.  This was Purplepay, a filly bought by his long-time clients Lael Stable at last December’s Arqana sale for €2 milllion.

That price would never have been countenanced in the first half of last year, even though she was prolific in the provinces, but she upped the ante for her last two runs and picked up a Longchamp conditions race before running third in a Saint-Cloud Group 1.

Fittingly, on the weekend when the 2022 Derby was run in Lester’s honour, his American friends Lael Stable, with whom he owned shares in Haggas horses, now have a very smart filly with his son-in-law.

As probably the trainer closest to the Sir Michael Stoute tradition of steadily bringing on his young horses, he can take this explosive filly a long way, perhaps starting at Royal Ascot next week. Yes, we’ve got that to come, in just eight days’ time. Chantilly was only one day after a wonderful Derby performance but, as we’ve seen, things in racing rarely stand still for long.

- TS



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Monday Musings: The Middle Distance Ranks Are Massing

Until Wednesday evening in Paris it was all plain sailing for Aidan O’Brien, writes Tony Stafford. He could pick his Group 1 spots for the rest of the year with his team of Classic colts and more plentiful top fillies and wait to see what presumably ineffectual opposition Europe’s other major stables would be able to throw at them.

But then along came Hurricane Lane, only third to lesser-fancied stable-companion Adayar in the Derby at Epsom but subsequently a workmanlike winner in the face of a good late challenge by English-trained Lone Eagle (Martin Meade) in the Irish Derby at The Curragh.

Neither run could have prepared us for the Frankel colt’s storming performance on Bastille Day (14 July) as he ripped away the home team’s barricades <couldn’t help myself> beating the Prix du Jockey Club also-rans with possibly more ease than St Mark’s Basilica had managed a month earlier.

Die-hard traditionalists have already been put in their place in France. In the old days the Jockey Club was 2400 metres (12 furlongs) in line with Epsom and The Curragh and was reduced to its present distance of 2100 metres in 2005.

That move coincided with the moving up to a mile and a half of the great Fête Nationale celebration race on a movable feast of an evening card at Longchamp. The Grand Prix de Paris, until the arrival of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1920, had been the most prestigious and valuable race in France and was run over 3000 metres (15 furlongs), and even 3100 metres for a shorter intervening period.

In 1987, though, it was reduced significantly in distance to 2000 metres (1m2f) and it was at that trip that Saumarez won the 1990 race prior to his victory in the Arc that October. Previously trained to place in the Dee Stakes at Chester by Henry Cecil, Saumarez made Nicolas Clement, who had recently taken over the stable when his father Miguel died, the youngest-ever trainer to win France’s greatest race.

It works for France because, as Hurricane Lane showed so eloquently, a horse could run in and even win either or both the Epsom and Irish Derby, or indeed the Jockey Club, and there would still be time to prepare him for the Grand Prix.

That is just what Charlie Appleby did with such skill and the most notable element of it was how much he had in hand of the William Haggas colt Alenquer whose form with Adayer in the Sandown Classic Trial over ten furlongs in the spring appeared to give him a collateral edge on Hurricane Lane.

Alenquer not only beat Adayer on the Esher slopes but afterwards comfortably won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. But he was put in his place as Hurricane Lane stormed <that verb again!> six lengths clear of Wordsworth, first home of the O’Brien trio. It looked at first appraisal a major improvement on The Curragh but closer inspection reveals that Wordsworth had been beaten slightly further in his home Classic.

So where does that leave Adayer? Well, according to a conversation Charlie Appleby had with a friend who visited his luxurious stables in Newmarket before racing on Saturday, Adayer is fancied to run a very strong race as he faces up to last year’s O’Brien Classic superstar, Love, in Saturday’s King George.

The filly has the edge in the market after her comeback win over an inadequate ten furlongs in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot but Appleby, mindful that the weight-for-age scale favours three-year-olds, is by all accounts confident he will do so. Love concedes 8lb to the Derby hero while William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver gives him 11lb. Ascot is also the probable target for Lone Eagle.

Like O’Brien, Appleby is a modest man who often deflects praise to the people around him. Indeed as my friend left, Charlie said, “If you couldn’t train horses from here, where could you?”

Guesses that maybe St Mark’s Basilica might step up in distance on Saturday have been scuppered by his trainer’s single-mindedly pointing him towards the Juddmonte International. Those three days in York next month will also feature the next step towards the stars of Snowfall, following in the footprints of Love from a year ago by taking in the Yorkshire Oaks.

By the way, Jim, get my room ready! I’ll see how my first day back racing on Saturday at Ascot goes and then I might take the liberty of giving you a call. Where have I been? Too busy with all this Covid lark, mate, but I have been thinking of you!

However short a price Love was on what was to prove her last run of 2020 after the easy wins in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, the latter by nine lengths, 4-9 will be looking a gift if that is available about Snowfall. Could be 1-5!

Many felt the exaggerated superiority, indeed a UK Classic record-winning margin of 16 lengths, could in part be ascribed to the very testing ground at Epsom. Just as many were predicting that on faster ground in Saturday’s Irish Oaks she might go for economy.

Leading two furlongs out under Ryan Moore, delighted to be riding her for only the second time – he was on board for the shock Musidora win at York on May 12 three weeks before Epsom and that Frankie Dettori benefit – she drew away by eight-and-a-half lengths in majestic style.

As we know, the Coolmore boys like all the boxes ticked and the opportunities covered, but I can categorically tell you that they did not expect her to win at York. Even when she did, the beaten horses’ connections were dreaming up reasons why you could not trust the result.

After all she was rated only a modest 90 on the back of her juvenile exploits, the most memorable apart from winning a small maiden race was the mix up when she wore the wrong colour hat when well behind in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket last autumn.

After the Epsom and Curragh regal processions there is only one place you would consider for a soft-ground loving but equally comfortable on quicker turf three-year-old filly of her status - the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. It took me a while – having discarded my European Pattern Races 2021 book with hundreds of others in advance of a hoped-for downsizing move – to work out why she had not been one of the dozen O’Brien horses entered for the Arc.

Six older male horses – Mogul, Broome, Armory, Serpentine, Japan and Inisfree (where’s he been for 20 months?) – are supplemented by Love. The five three-year-olds are the colts St Mark’s Basilica, along with domestic Classic flops Bolshoi Ballet, High Definition and hard-working Van Gogh whose dance in four Classics (the UK and Irish Guineas, when third behind Mac Swiney, and French and Irish Derby) brought that one positive result.

That left room for one filly and, considering Santa Barbara took until last week to gain Grade 1 winning honours in the New York Oaks while four of her supposedly inferior female counterparts beat her to it, the evidence is there. They did indeed think she was far and away the best.

At least that was the case until 3.15 p.m. on the afternoon of May 12. The Arc closed at France Galop’s HQ around four-and-three-quarter hours earlier.  Now they have to wait until September 27 to get her in and pay a heavy penalty to do so.

In all, 101 horses made it. I am sure that date is writ large on the Racing Office wall and, if she enjoys another exhibition round back at the Yorkshire track she first consented to tell her trainer and owners how good she is, the supplementary entry will be made. Chances to win the race do not come along very often.

For all his and his owners’ successes in big races around Europe and in the US, the Arc has proved elusive. Two victories, with four-year-olds Dylan Thomas in 2007 and the brilliant filly Found five years ago, leave him still with a blank to fill. No Ballydoyle three-year-old has won the race since the days of Vincent O’Brien, who took the first of his two Arcs with Alleged in 1977. His second win, doubling up for Lester Piggott the year after followed Ballymoss in 1958, showed once again just how tough a race it is to win.

As mentioned, two O’Brien fillies are entered, Love and Santa Barbara. The latter might continue to make up for her earlier limitations in the Nassau Stakes next week but, as we know, a trio of Classic-winning alternatives, Joan Of Arc, Mother Earth and Empress Josephine, are equally qualified to step in and possibly pick up the Goodwood fillies’ Group 1.

Meanwhile Kevin Ryan has been exploiting the early juvenile Group contests in France with Atomic Force. Beaten first time out and gelded before a win in a small race at Hamilton, Ryan took him to Longchamp last month and he won Group 3 Prix du Bois nicely.

Returning yesterday for the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin, he started 2-1 on and bolted up. He will probably return for the Prix Morny at Deauville next month. Having watched that win the Sky Sports Racing team suggested the Nunthorpe might be an option given how much weight juveniles get from their elders. This year though that could be a hot race if newcomers on the Group 1 sprinting scene like Ed Walker’s Starman and Tim Easterby’s flying filly Winter Power turn up.

- TS



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