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Angel Bleu secures Group One double at Saint-Cloud

Angel Bleu came from last to first to complete a French Group One double in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.

Three weeks on from winning the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc day at ParisLongchamp, Ralph Beckett’s charge was a 15-8 chance in the hands of Frankie Dettori.

The Italian was happy to bide his time at the rear of the field and in the slipstream of the Andre Fabre-trained Ancient Rome, who had finished third in the Lagardere and was the marginal favourite to exact his revenge at 11-8.

But Angel Bleu quickened up smartly when popped the question to grab the lead – and while Ancient Rome did his best to make a race of it, the British raider was ultimately too strong.

“He’s very tough, he really is,” Beckett told Sky Sports Racing.

“It was a terrific effort, to come back less than three weeks after (the Lagardere) and do it again.

“He really was the best again today. There were no excuses for anybody.

“He’s just an extraordinarily tough horse and talented with it.”

Betfair trimmed Angel Bleu’s odds for next year’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket to 12-1 from 16-1, although Beckett feels the French equivalent – the Poule d’Essai des Poulains – could be more likely.

Ralph Beckett was thrilled with the performance of Angel Bleu at Saint-Cloud
Ralph Beckett was thrilled with the performance of Angel Bleu at Saint-Cloud (Mike Egerton/PA)

He added: “We’ll worry about next year next year and enjoy today. We’ll get the celebrating out of the way first!

“I’d say, if I was going to bet on it, he’ll be back here for the Poulains.”

There was further top-level success for Britain in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, with El Bodegon providing Newmarket handler James Ferguson with his first Group One victory.

A previous winner at Sandown in July and in a Group Three at Chantilly last month, the Kodiac colt received an enterprising ride from the front by Ioritz Mendizabal.

Having been tracked Charlie Appleby’s previously unbeaten favourite Goldspur for much of the 10-furlong journey, El Bodegon kicked clear early in the home straight and was not for catching.

Aidan O’Brien’s Stone Age finished strongly to beat Goldspur to the runner-up spot, with Joseph O’Brien’s Buckaroo fourth to complete a clean sweep for the raiding party.

On claiming his first Group One success, Ferguson said: “It’s pretty incredible. I couldn’t quite work out what was going on with a furlong to go.

“We love the horse and from his last win we planned that this was where we were going to go, but being in front with a furlong to go wasn’t really part of my planning.

“I thought he’d have to work very hard, (but) he’s obviously improved with every run and he takes travelling very well.

“I thought he was given a great ride and he relaxed very well in front. Credit to the team at home and the owners. To be able to reward them like this is mega.

“His full-brother Best Solution got better with age. This horse is not overly big, but there’s a lot of presence about him and it’s very exciting to wonder what we might have next year as I can’t see him not improving.

“He’s going to carry a Group One penalty now and I think you have to aim high with a horse like this.”

O’Brien relies on Aikhal in Criterium International

Aidan O’Brien will rely on just Aikhal in his bid for a record sixth victory in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud with Glounthaune non a non-runner.

Mount Nelson was the Ballydoyle handler’s first winner of the French Group One in 2006 – and he has since added to his tally with Jan Vermeer (2009), Roderic O’Connor (2010), Johannes Vermeer (2015) and last year’s winner Van Gogh.

Glounthaune was set to have his third run in three weeks having had an outing in the Dewhurst and won the Killavullan last week but he was taken out on Saturday morning.

Ioritz Mendizabal takes the ride on Aikhal – who was fourth in Newmarket’s Autumn Stakes on his latest appearance.

Ralph Beckett’s Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Angel Bleu and George Boughey’s tough-as-teak filly Oscula also feature in a seven-strong field.

Top-level honours are also up for grabs on the same card in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, in which the Charlie Appleby-trained Goldspur will be expected to play a starring role.

So impressive on his introduction at Sandown, the Dubawi colt followed up with a narrow victory in the Zetland Stakes at Newmarket – proving his stamina for the 10 furlongs he faces again.

“We were pleased with how Goldspur won his race at Newmarket, when his stamina came to the fore,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“He broke his maiden on soft ground, so conditions in France shouldn’t be an issue.

“This is another step up, but it looks the right race for him, and he brings a nice profile into it.”

O’Brien, who has won the race on four occasions, is this year represented by Stone Age.

The Galileo colt appears to have his work cut out as a four-race maiden, most recently finishing sixth behind Angel Bleu on Arc day at ParisLongchamp.

O’Brien said: “He stayed on nicely on his last run on Arc weekend, and that was only over seven furlongs.

“We always thought he was going to be a horse who would stay further. He seems to have been in good form since the last day.

“Hopefully the ground won’t be as heavy as it was in Longchamp.”

Unconquerable (Donnacha O’Brien), Dillian (Michael Bell), El Bodegon (James Ferguson) and Buckaroo (Joseph O’Brien) complete a strong British and Irish challenge.

Angel Bleu and Scope seeking Group One honours in France

Ralph Beckett is targeting a Group One double in France this weekend with Angel Bleu and Scope.

Angel Bleu is out to bag his second top-level prize of the autumn in Saturday’s Criterium International at Saint-Cloud following his victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at ParisLongchamp three weeks ago.

With Frankie Dettori again in the saddle, hopes are high that the son of Dark Angel can once again strike Group One gold.

Reflecting on Angel Bleu’s success, Beckett told Sky Sports Racing: “It was very satisfying. He had to run down Charlie Appleby’s colt and won well in the end. He’s a true professional.

“He thrives on his work to an extraordinary degree. He started at Leicester in April and really hasn’t missed a beat.

“The only reason he didn’t run through August and September was because ground conditions weren’t there for him.

“We haven’t had to do much with him between Longchamp and Saint-Cloud on Saturday.”

Connections also had the option of running in Saturday’s Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster and Beckett admits it was a close call between the two.

Ralph Beckett has high hopes for Angel Bleu
Ralph Beckett has high hopes for Angel Bleu (John Walton/PA)

He added: “It wasn’t (an easy choice) at all because there was a feeling that as he’s become more straightforward, the straight track at Doncaster would hold no fears for him.

“Frankie in particular was quite keen that we considered it, (but) in the end I think we felt that the formbook is saying he’s better round a bend, so Saint-Cloud was an easier decision.

“They say the ground is going to be soft and he’s proven on that ground.

“It seems like we’ve got all our ducks in a row. It won’t be easy – I think Ancient Rome in particular will improve from his run in the Lagardere (finished third).

“We’re going to be have to be at our best to hold him off.”

Scope cruised clear at Ascot
Scope cruised clear at Ascot (Steven Paston/PA)

The following afternoon Angel Bleu’s stablemate Scope will return to the highest level for the two-mile Prix Royal-Oak at ParisLongchamp.

Sixth in the St Leger on his penultimate start, the three-year-old was last seen running out a wide-margin winner of the Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot.

“I thought Rob Hornby was very cool on him. The horse doesn’t give you very much and you could see from Swinley Bottom, Rob was smacking him down the neck to keep him into his bridle,” said Beckett.

“But in the end, he’s done it really well and clearly it was a very good effort.

“In the spring things didn’t quite go as we’d hoped for him and he had a problem after the Lingfield Derby Trial.

“I really wasn’t at all sure how he’d run in the Voltigeur and I was hugely encouraged by that run.

“He rather fluffed his lines at the start in the St Leger – we felt he could have finished a lot closer if that hadn’t happened – and then it all came together at Ascot, albeit at a lower level.

“He’s going to have to be at his very best on Sunday, but he’s had a shortish year and it really seemed like it was a bet to nothing to take him.

“He’s worked well since Ascot and looks terrific. It’s going to be tough for him, but the trip, ground and track should all suit him really well.”

Broome sweeps aside Saint-Cloud field for first Group One triumph

Broome sealed a fine weekend for Aidan O’Brien as he secured a first Group One victory with an all-the-way success in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud at the Parisian track.

Fourth in 2019 Derby at Epsom when sent off a 4-1 shot, Broome was limited to just two outings last year but has undergone a renaissance this term, winning three of his five starts.

Edged out in Group One company on his penultimate start and second to Wonderful Tonight in the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot, the son of Australia faced seven rivals over 12 furlongs in France, as O’Brien sought to add further top-level success after St Mark’s Basilica in the Eclipse on Saturday.

Partnered by Colin Keane, Broome was soon at the head of affairs and while the prolific Baron Samedi, trained by O’Brien’s son, Joseph, settled on his heels, the winner was still travelling much the best at the top of the straight.

Baron Samedi started to drop back as Broome forged on, with Ebaiyra launching a late challenge, but Broome was a length too good. Gold Trip took third with well-fancied Arc runner-up In Swoop only fourth.

Keane was notching his first top-level success in France, in what was also his first ride at Saint-Cloud.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s my first time being here, but it’s a lovely track and I had a nice, willing partner, so hopefully it’s the first of many here.

“Speaking to Aidan beforehand, he said to keep it pretty simple and if nothing was happy to go, to make your own way. He’s a very uncomplicated horse, very genuine and stays well. Nothing was really going on, so I was happy to let my lad roll along, he pricked his ears and was taking me the whole way.

Aidan O'Brien has had another weekend to remember
Aidan O’Brien has had another weekend to remember (Nigel French/PA)

“He galloped right to the line and was very deserving of it to be fair. He’s been very consistent this year, so it’s nice to get the Group One beside his name.

“He was just denied at the Curragh and he ran well at Ascot the last day.”

Asked if Broome – who is part-owned with Coolmore by Japanese connections – could be a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe contender in the autumn, Keane added: “I wouldn’t put them off anyway!

“He very uncomplicated, acts on most grounds and gets the trip well, so I’m sure they’ll have plenty of fun with him for the rest of the year.”

Yasufumi Sawada, who manages Masaaki Matsushima’s racing interests, confirmed a date in Paris in October will be on the agenda.

He said: “This is Mr Matsushima’s first Group One win. I just spoke to him on the phone and he is very happy!

“Broome will now be aimed at the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.”

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.

“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)

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.”