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.

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