French Success at the Royal Ascot

France ChantillyWith Britain’s most valuable race meeting on the horizon it is time to take a look at how the French contingent have performed over the recent years.

French trainers have been targeting the staying races since the mid-1940s. The Marcel Boussac-owned Caracalla won the G1 Ascot Gold Cup (4014m) in 1946 with the Charles Semblat-trained charge already having won the G1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) and the G1 Prix Royal Oak (3100m) the previous year. That same trainer and owner combination took the race in 1948 with Arbar. A half-brother to Caracalla it is clear to see those staying pedigrees, alongside a healthy race programme have contributed to success throughout those early years.

The contest was also won five times between 1951-1960 whilst the high-class Sagaro produced a trio of consecutive victories from 1975-1977.

It is fair to say that the success of French contestants in the G1 Ascot Gold Cup (4014m) over recent years has diminished, although Vazirabad did finish runner-up in 2018. This could be down to the home staying programme catering for the majority of the trainer’s needs, whilst the likely encountering of fast ground always has the potential to scare off French raiders.

Putting the G1 Ascot Gold Cup to one side there is a new generation of trainer’s emerging in France for whom Royal Ascot has developed into a major event on the racing calender with some of its key races being targeted by France’s finest thoroughbreds. Races such as the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes (Colts) (1600m) and the G1 Coronation Stakes (Fillies) (1600m) have attracted plenty of French attention. The timing of such an event has provided a stable platform for France to take on the top British and Irish 3-year-old milers. French runners have had plenty of success in the G1 Coronation Stakes (Fillies) (1600m) over recent years with Immortal Verse (2011), Ervedya (2015), Qemah (2016) and Watch Me (2019) all landing the prize.

The G2 Ribblesdale Stakes (2404m) also provides the opportunity for those horses unsuited by the shorter trip of the G1 Prix de Diane (2100m). French runners have however been scarce in the event with the Aga Khan-owned Vazira the last competitor back in 2014. Although Olivier Peslier did win the race aboard the John Gosden-trained Coronet in 2017.

A far more fashionable recent target for French raiders has been the G1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (2004m), a race open to four-year-olds and above. The race went to France three times between the years of 2007-2010 courtesy of victories from ManduroVision d’Etat and Byword. Whilst G1 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) winners Treve and Waldgeist both filled third position in their respective attempts.

As for the sprinting divisions the recent French crop have struggled to compete at the top-level, despite victories from Don’t Worry Me (1997) and Chineur (2005) in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m). The G1 Prix de l’Abbaye (1000m) is the sole five-or six-furlong G1 in France for all-aged horses and the majority of recent fields have predominantly been made up of English and Irish raiders. It would appear the French sprinting division lacks top-class performers in comparison.

French trainers still hold a handful of entries for next week’s festival with Suesa (Commonwealth Cup) and Sagamiyra (Duke Of Cambridge Stakes) the two that stand out on paper.

Source: French PMU

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Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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