Breeders Cup at Del Mar: French Group Summer Stakes

French horse racing blurrThe spring and summer French Classics have now been run and we have seen the best of the European three-year-olds in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) and the G1 Prix Jean Prat (1400m) – so what have we learnt so far?

It has been a year of Irish domination so far with Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien picking up three of the four French Classics. It began with a historic first success in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1600m) with St Mark’s Basilica. The Siyouni colt swerved the G1 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Newmarket (UK) and dominated the French equivalent two weeks later, comfortably winning by one and three-quarter lengths ahead of the Italian-trained Colosseo in second.

St Mark’s Basilica recorded the same winning margin a month later when taking the G1 Prix du Jockey Club (2100m) at Chantilly, easily beating the French-based Sealiway and Millebosc. Stable-mate Joan Of Arc had a harder task in the G1 Prix de Diane (2100m) against short-priced favourite Philomene from the André Fabre stable. A beautifully bred half-sister to multiple Group One winners, Joan Of Arc had to be driven hard to repel the late surge of Philomene but stayed on well and was eased close to home.

The only French victory in the Classics came in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (1600m) when Couersamba out-ran long odds to beat the Aidan O’Brien trained G1 1000 Guineas (1600m) heroine Mother Earth. Couersamba was settled in mid-division and made good progress in the final 400m under jockey Cristian Demuro, recording a one and a quarter length winning margin.

The Irish sprang a surprise in the G1 Prix Jean Prat with Laws Of Indices improving from his fifth in the G1 Commonwealth Cup (1200m) at Royal Ascot. This Ken Condon trained colt seemed to appreciate the step up in distance and held on to win by a head from Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon. Midtown finished the best of the home team in third.

Hurricane Lane backed up his eye catching G1 Irish Derby (2400m) success with an impressive six length win in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m). The top four at the finishing line were all trained in the UK or Ireland, with Baby Rider achieving the best finish of the French-trained contingent in fifth.

French 3yos

With the Classic generation now stepping into open company, it will be interesting to see how the three-year-olds fare against their older rivals. Over the shorter distances, the top sprinters are expected to come together in the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest (1300m) at Deauville on 8 August. Connections of G1 Commonwealth Cup (1200m) first and second Campanelle and Dragon Symbol will be looking to confirm who is the best three-year-old sprinter after the original placings were reversed due to interference by Dragon Symbol. The colt has since proven he can race with the fastest horses in Europe, finishing second in the G1 July Cup (1200m) at Newmarket (UK). G1 Prix Jean Prat (1400m) winner Laws Of Indices is expected to join them and Jean-Claude Rouget indicated Prix Jean Prat fourth Valloria will try her luck over 1300m.

Looking towards the Autumn, three-year-olds dominate the betting for the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) and Aidan O’Brien’s Snowfall continues to shorten at the head of the market. The filly set a new record for the largest winning distance in a UK Classic when defeating her nearest rival by sixteen lengths in the G1 Oaks (2400m) at Epsom Downs (UK) and has since won the Irish equivalent by eight and a half. With a three-year-old fillies weight allowance, she deserves her place as favourite for the Autumn showpiece. Hurricane Lane is well-fancied to go close after his performance over course and distance in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) while G1 Derby (2400m) hero Adayar cannot be dismissed.

Although well-fancied in the betting for the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, double Classic winner St Mark’s Basilica is expected to dominate the 2000m division for the remainder of the season. He comfortably beat the older horses by three and a half lengths in the G1 Eclipse (2000m) at Sandown Park in early July including 2020 G1 Prix du Jockey Club winner Mishriff. At this stage of the year, it is difficult to imagine who can beat the rising star of the 2021 season.

Source: French PMU

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About Editor

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 Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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