The upcoming weekend is a total feast for racing purists. On Saturday the Derby and Oaks are run at Epsom on the same day, surely the first time in living memory: On Sunday, likewise, the Prix du Jockey Club and Prix de Diane are both run together at Chantilly. Sadly crowds still not allowed so once again we will be restricted to watching the racing on our televisions.
The brilliantly named Victor Ludorum heads the Jockey Club field with both the highest rating and the smartest CV. He aims to emulate his sire Shamardal and Lope de Vega (also son of Shamardal) in winning both the Poule d’essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) and Prix du Jockey Club, apparently a winning combo when it comes to being a good stallion too.
A winner of four of his five starts including a Group 1 at two and already a classic at three and hailing from the great Weinstock family of Helen Street, dam of Street Cry, he would be a worthy winner. The race will take some winning however but being drawn in stall one is a good start.
It looks like being a full field and in times gone by that has, on occasions, produced something of a stock car race. When you walk it the bend at Chantilly is considerably tighter than it appears on TV so getting a good position early on and then a clear run at the right moment is important.
Plenty of interesting types in opposition
The opposition is lead by The Summit, second to Victor Ludorum in the Poule D’essai and recently sold to Hong Kong interests but it would be difficult to see him reversing places, particularly drawn 16 of the 17 runners.
The elegant Port Guillaume a son of Le Havre has a little bit to find on the ratings but that is largely because he hasn’t yet run in a stakes race. His form stacks up well however and he is unbeaten, his victim last time out, Gold Trip, went on to win the Group 2 Prix Greffuhle. His trainer Jean Claude Rouget has obviously nurtured him avoiding tough contests so he will arrive at the start feeling like King Kong, he also has the advantage of a good draw in stall 4.
Ocean Atlantique representing the Coolmore clan is, like the favourite, also trained by André Fabre. A statuesque son of American Pharoah he comes off an easy win in a listed race at Deauville and would appear to be an animal who best days are still in front of him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him reverse placings with Pao Alto who beat him a length and a half in the Group 3 Prix la Force.
Of the remaining French runners there are two coming from the left field that could be interesting for those who want an each way punt at big odds.
A brief glance at the form of San Fabrizio won’t impress you, lowly rated and he finished last in the Prix de Guiche but most who watched the race agree he would have won with a clear run, his jockey finishing with his feet on the dashboard, in which case he would be half the odds he is at present.
The other French runner who comes in under the radar is Hurricane Dream who hails from the small provincial stable of the young Mikael Mescam. Unbeaten in three starts he only won a conditions race last time out be he came form behind in a slow run race and threw in scintillating fractions for the last two furlongs coming home in under 22 seconds. Lack of experience might come against him but he has an engine.
Overseas raiders don't look up to much
Of the foreign challengers much respect should be given to the John Gosden trained Mishriff. He ran a surprising race to be second on the dirt in Riyadh in February then took the eye when winning a listed race at Newmarket by 4 lengths in early June. Aidan O’Brien sends two from Ballydoyle, Fort Myers, and Order of Australia.
Frankly they don’t look good enough, Fort Myers was heavily campaigned at two and comes off a disappointing 9th in the Irish guineas, and Order of Australia is still a maiden although he did finish fourth in a weak Irish Derby last weekend.
Home brigade have a battle on their hands in the Diane
The Prix de Diane will have fewer runners but some classy fillies turn up and the home brigade will have to bring their best game to the sports if they want to keep the prize in France. Jean Claude Rouget starts Raabihah for Sheikh Hamdan and Vadsena for the Aga Khan. The former, a daughter of Sea the Stars is unbeaten in two runs and comes off an easy four length success in a Listed race at Longchamp in mid May. She looks highly progressive but is drawn a bit wide in stall nine.
Aga Khan fillies always demand respect in this race, it has been a fertile hunting ground for them over the years and in addition to Vadsena the lightly raced Ebaiya, a daughter of distorted humour demands respect. She broke her maiden in the Group 3 Prix de Royaumant over 2400m but won well that day.
Fabrice Chappet is well represented with three runners staring Mageva and Speak of the Devil in addition to Magic Attitude. The two former were second and third in the Poule d’essai des Pouliches so represent solid form. If either improve for more distance they could be in the shake up but on pedigree that wouldn’t be certain. Magic Attitude, likewise a daughter of sprinter Margot Did could find the trip a bit long.
A first Group 1 for Donnacha O'Brien?
The foreign contingent of Peaceful, Alpine Star and Fancy Blue is strong. Peaceful won the Irish guineas by two lengths from Fancy Blue but the latter is lightly raced, was staying on that day and on pedigree she is likely to be better over further. Could she provide an extraordinary first classic winner in his first year for the young Donnacha O’Brien? Not impossible.
Alpine Star goes to the start as the highest rated filly in the field and justly so. The sister to the champion Alpha Centuri comes off a four and a half length success in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite being by Sea the Moon she wouldn’t be certain to stay but being drawn in stall one will be a big help in terms of getting the trip.
With the action at Chantilly, as well as the UK Group 1s, thanks be to racing and the good horses that they give us such pleasure and distraction at these difficult times.