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The Revenant takes Prix du Muguet test

Impressive Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner The Revenant is back out on Saturday in the Prix du Muguet at Saint-Cloud.

Francis-Henri Graffard’s stable star is running there in preference to the Lockinge at Newbury in a fortnight, with the trainer being put off by the current quick ground in Berkshire and the difficulties of overseas travel due to the pandemic.

He stated earlier this week, however, that The Revenant could still come to Royal Ascot, ground permitting.

The mud-lover concedes 4lb or more to eight rivals, including Jean-Claude Rouget’s Wally, winner of seven of his 11 races.

Andre Fabre fields four in Duhail, Alson, Tropbeau and last year’s French 2000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum.

However, Fabre fears his Classic victor may need the run. He finished behind Mishriff twice after his Guineas win, but was well behind behind Persian King in the Prix du Moulin on his final start last September.

“He has had a longer winter break than some of mine,” said Fabre.

“He had been suffering with a back problem, we found out. So, he might be a bit short of work for a race like this.

“I’m not quite sure he’s good enough for the best Group Ones, going forward, and I’m not sure that he stays a mile and a quarter.

“I think he will run well and this will just put him right for the Prix d’Ispahan, which will be his next race.”

Van Gogh powers to Group One success at Saint-Cloud

Van Gogh produced an impressive burst of speed to win the Group One Criterium International for Aidan O’Brien at Saint-Cloud.

Pierre-Charles Boudot had Van Gogh anchored last of the six-runner field until making swift progress into the straight and bagging the rail position on the stands side.

On his seventh start of a busy campaign, O’Brien’s American Pharoah colt then quickly put distance between himself and the rest – and at the post the 3-1 shot had four lengths in hand from rallying long-time leader Normandy Bridge.

Van Gogh appeared to relish the heavy ground on his first attempt at the top level, going one better than when second to One Ruler in Newmarket’s Group Three Autumn Stakes.

Winning jockey Boudot told Sky Sports Racing: “He is impressive.

“Aidan told me before the race that he needed cover, for a nice trip and be relaxed – and he has a nice turn of foot.

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“But he is still green and tricky when he arrived in front – but he won in very good style.”

Van Gogh, whose performance attracted a Betfair quote of 20-1 (from 33-1) for next year’s Epsom Derby, was previously a runner-up at Group Two and Group Three level in Ireland.

Among those behind him this time were two British challengers – and fellow 9-4 joint-favourites – Simon and Ed Crisford’s Jadoomi (third) and Charlie Appleby’s previously unbeaten La Barrosa, who dead-heated for fifth and last.

Mark Johnston’s Gear Up secured a British victory in the other Group One on the card, the Criterium de Saint-Cloud – springing a surprise at 18-1 under James Doyle.

Last seen when fourth in the Royal Lodge Stakes and successful before then in the Group Three Acomb at York, Gear Up took this move to 10 furlongs in his stride.

Always to the fore in a race run at only a steady pace in tough conditions, the Teofilo colt appeared vulnerable as the pack closed into the straight – but he refused to buckle and held on with great determination to win by a neck from Botanik.

Jean-Claude Rouget’s previously unbeaten favourite Makaloun and the well-backed Bolshoi Ballet, for O’Brien, were only third and fifth respectively.

Doyle, riding Gear Up for the first time, explained he decided on a change of tactics after speaking to Franny Norton, who had been in the saddle at Newmarket.

He said: “I have to say thank you to Franny Norton, who rang me yesterday and told me all about the horse.

“He just felt in the Royal Lodge that he gave the leader a bit of a soft time. He felt at the time it was the right thing to do – but in hindsight, it didn’t play to the horse’s strengths.

“He said get him into a nice rhythm, and wherever you’re happy – whether that’s in front or taking a lead.

“It wasn’t necessarily the plan to bounce out and make all – but as we know, these horses of Mark Johnston’s are a joy to ride, very relaxed and don’t tend to pull or overdo themselves.

“So when he broke nicely, I was happy to just control the race in front and he wound it up nicely off the bend.

“He was just tending to hang to his left a little bit, with inexperience. But I think this race will bring him on, and we’ll have a lot of fun with him next year.

“He’s very versatile, and I wouldn’t rule him out staying further next year. He powered through the line, and was actually drawing away.”

Ralph Beckett’s Feliciana De Vega was fancied to get involved in the earlier Prix de Flore but could fare no better than sixth of seven as Boudot took the Group Three spoils on Gianluca Bietolini’s Grand Glory.

The 9-1 shot won by a neck from Solsticia, with 7-4 joint-favourites Feliciana De Vega and the previously unbeaten Zaykava both unable to land a telling blow.

There was a Group Three win for a British challenger, however, when Roger Varian’s Believe In Love justified her starting price as 5-6 favourite in the Prix Belle de Nuit.

Mickael Barzalona made stealthy progress from the rear, took over in the straight and was largely motionless by the time Believe In Love passed the post a cheeky three-quarters of a length in front of Pontille.

Van Gogh bidding to add further lustre O’Brien’s Criterium record

Van Gogh bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with a record fifth victory in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on Saturday.

In a Group One inaugurated in 2001, the Ballydoyle trainer first struck gold with Mount Nelson in 2006. He has since added to his tally with Jan Vermeer (2009), Roderic O’Connor (2010) and Johannes Vermeer (2015).

Van Gogh heads to France with plenty of experience under his belt from six career outings and has been placed three times at Pattern level, most recently chasing home Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago.

“We were delighted with Van Gogh at Newmarket,” said O’Brien.

“We took our time on him, and he came home very well.

“It was a good performance – he looked like he was finishing his race off well, and we are looking forward to seeing him run.”

After electing to run the aforementioned One Ruler in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on the same afternoon, Appleby instead sends the unbeaten La Barrosa across the Channel to take on Van Gogh.

The Lope De Vega colt looked a high-class prospect when winning on racecourse debut at Ascot in early September, and furthered that impression with a Group Three success in Newmarket’s Tattersalls Stakes three weeks later.

La Barrosa is another exciting prospect for Charlie Appleby
La Barrosa is another exciting prospect for Charlie Appleby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
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Appleby said: “La Barrosa won the Tattersalls Stakes, which turned into a little tactical affair, but he got the job done.

“It’s going to be very testing ground at Saint-Cloud, but we are confident with his pedigree that should suit him.

“He did show his class to win from the position he was in at Newmarket, but he has got to improve again stepping up to a Group One. I think going up to a mile will help him, for sure.”

Simon and Ed Crisford’s dual winner Jadoomi is the other British challenger in a seven-strong field.

The other Group One contest on the card is the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, which is run over a mile and a quarter.

O’Brien has also claimed this prize on four occasions, most recently with Recital in 2010, and this year relies on Bolshoi Ballet – who was third on his Newmarket debut before opening his account in some style at Leopardstown just last week.

“He ran green at Newmarket first time out, but then he won well at Leopardstown the next day,” said O’Brien.

“There’s lots of stamina in the pedigree, so you wouldn’t be too worried about stepping up to 10 furlongs.

“Hopefully he runs well.”

British hopes are carried by David Menuisier’s Belloccio and Gear Up from Mark Johnston’s yard.

David Menuisier is enjoying an excellent campaign
David Menuisier is enjoying an excellent campaign (Simon Cooper/PA)

Belloccio faces a significant step up in class after winning on his introduction at Salisbury a few weeks ago, and bids to provide his French-born trainer with a second Group One in as many weeks following Wonderful Tonight’s success at Ascot last weekend.

Menuisier said: “He’s a horse we like. He won on pure ability at Salisbury, because he was still raw and has come on big time for the run.

“We feel he’s a good horse, and at this time of the year you don’t have much to lose. If he runs well it would be fantastic, and he could well do that. If he doesn’t, what would we have lost?

“I really don’t think either the trip or the conditions will bother him – he might even handle them better than some.

“I’m intrigued to see how he runs, more than confident, but if he runs well I wouldn’t be surprised – because he’s a horse we love.”

Gear Up won on his debut at York and returned to the Knavesmire to win the Group Three Acomb Stakes, before finishing fourth in last month’s Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “Judged on his run at Newmarket, you would be hopeful the step up to a mile and a quarter would see more improvement in him.

“We left Newmarket a bit frustrated. I felt they didn’t go very quick through the middle part of the race; Frankie (Dettori) sprinted into the dip on New Mandate (winner), and we were quite a long way out of our ground two furlongs out, then we were beaten only a couple of lengths.

“It will be bottomless ground on Saturday, but he has won on good to soft at York – and he goes there with a live chance.”