We are at the halfway point of the French Flat Season. Having started earlier than the UK on 11th May, French racing was able to have a 3 week period at Centre Stage. This year’s season, although compressed, has begun to resume a familiar pattern and I thought it would be good to share some of my thoughts on how this season is progressing and what I hope we will see as we move into the Autumn.
The major French Classics have now passed, not run on their usual date or in the cases of the Poulains and the Pouliches not at their usual track, but we have had a classic season and for that we should be grateful. Whilst the form of both French Guineas can be questioned to a point, the Prix Du Jockey Club and the Prix De Diane are the best races run this season in Europe. While that may be a controversial opinion, the form cannot be argued with. Mishriff, who took the Prix Du Jockey Club was unbelievably impressive at Deauville on Saturday, with The Summit chasing him home to confirm it. Mishriff is arguably the best middle distance Colt in Europe right now and John Gosden has the potential to dominate the middle distance division with him.
The Prix De Diane, where the first 4 home were within 1 length of each other is already working out extremely well. Fancy Blue won the Nassau at Goodwood, Raabihah has since won at Group level, whilst Alpine Star ran a career best when chasing home Palace Pier. This race is the strongest middle distance race for the Fillies I have seen and the form is definitely worth following.
Having won the Poule dEssai des Poulains so easily in June, Andre Fabre’s Colt looked to have the world at his feet. However, since stepping up to 10-furlongs, he has twice chased home Mishriff and The Summit. In spite of travelling superbly well at the weekend, he just failed to find enough stamina to match Mishriff and I suspect that although he might get the trip, he is a miler who is being stretched out. Godolphin obviously have Pinatubo to throw into the mix at 1 mile as well, but surely (and hopefully) a drop in trip is next for Victor Ludorum.
The Summit is a really likeable horse. He gives everything, is ultra consistent and has finished 2nd in both French Classics. Having won the Prix De Fontainebleau in May, when he made all at Paris Longchamp, he has twice been outpaced by Mishriff before staying on well. In direct contrast to Victor Ludorum, a step up in trip will surely bring out more improvement as this son of Wootton Bassett, who appears to have stamina in abundance.
Having been a very impressive winner of the French 2,000 Guineas in 2019, Persian King has not quite reached those heights since. Sundays defeat behind Palace Pier in the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville has confirmed my thinking that he is a good horse, but he is not the Superstar we once thought he might be. There is no doubt that he will be competitive at Group level and will pay his way, but I don’t think he is likely to claim another Group 1 prize.
This Sunday, TIGER TANAKA won the Group 2 Prix Francois Boutin at Deauville. I love the horse, she is very game and always runs her race. The win was a 1st group success for her trainer Charley Rossi, ridden by his partner Jessica Marcialis in a heart-warming story which in truth is what racing is all about. However, her comfortable success has also highlighted that this years crop of French Juveniles is somewhat average. Whilst there is still time for a superstar to emerge, at this stage I think it is fair to say that the French Juveniles are some way behind their British and Irish counterparts. As we move into the Autumn, I do expect to see more of the top level 2-year-old prices being taken by runners from overseas.
At the start of this season, most eyes were on Andre Fabre. The Rouget team has always been a force in France, but has also played second fiddle to Andre Fabre. This year may perhaps represent a slight turning of the tide. Whilst the stable star Sottsass has been disappointing so far, the yard has an abundance of 3-year-old talent. Raabihah, Port Guillaume and Tawkeel are all Group 1 performers and I expect them to have a very productive Autumn campaign.