The race of the weekend without a doubt, this year’s Prix Maurice De Gheest promises to deliver a fantastic racing spectacle. All of the key players have assembled for the 6 1/2 furlong contest in the Deauville Sunshine. The best of British, Irish and French horses at this distance in a mouth watering contest.
Of the older horses, Space Blues has been a revelation this season, with wins at Haydock, Paris Longchamp and most recently Goodwood. It is very hard to knock his form and I was very impressed by the way he ran on in the Lennox last time. However, stall 1 is not ideal here and I do think he is a better horse over 7 furlongs and 1 mile (he has never won over this short a trip) and so it is with a heavy heart that I overlook him here.
In a similar category would be Hello Youmzain, who battled bravely to win the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot in June. However, his subsequent 5th to Oxted in the July Cup at Newmarket added to my opinion that he is better with a bit of cut in the ground and I’m not certain he has the turn of foot to handle some exciting 3-year-olds here.
This race is most likely to go to a 3-year-old. Aiden O’Brien sends both Wichita and Lope y Fernandez from Ballydoyle. Wichita has ran some creditable races this season, notably when 2nd in the Guineas to Kameko and 3rd to Palace Pier in the St James Palace. He has proven himself capable at this level, but the drop to this trip doesn’t look an obvious one to me and I can see how he could become outpaced when the speed lifts. Lope Y Fernandez has had a somewhat confused campaign, aimed at the Irish Guineas where he ran with credit to be 3rd to Siskin, he produced a career best to be 2nd to Pinatubo in the Prix Jean Prat last month. However, in between that was a dismal run in the Commonwealth Cup, where he was well beaten by Golden Horde and he doesn’t have the profile that suggests he could improve again to take this.
This brings us to the head of the market, Golden Horde and Earthlight. Golden Horde was a very impressive winner of the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. On Paper that is the strongest form on offer this season, but there are some question marks over it. Firstly, let me say it was a fantastic ride by Adam Kirby who got his mount into a good rhythm and had the perfect position on the stands side. But that is my issue, the horse was in the perfect place and that gave him a sufficient advantage to hold on that day, as the first 4 home were in the stands side group. In the July Cup at Newmarket he was beaten by Oxted fair and square and if Oxted were in this field, I wouldn’t see any reason for that form to be reversed and as such I don't think he is likely to win a Group 1 of this nature.
Having found reasons to oppose pretty much the entire field for one reason or another, this leaves me with EARTHLIGHT. 6 from 6. It is very hard to knock an unbeaten colt. This horse has clearly been favoured by the unusual circumstances of this season. Having suffered a small setback in the spring, he was saved from the inevitable step up to 1 mile in the Poule dEssai de Poulains. As a result, we have been blessed with a super talented sprinter, who could dominate the 6-furlong division. His return last month, when an easy winner of the Listed Kistena Stakes, showed that he is fit and well. That form, although below what others in this field have achieved, is not far from this level and given that he will surely take a step forwards, I find it very hard to oppose him. If we look at his Juvenile form last season, he holds every other 3-year-old in this field through various form lines. He is the potential superstar in this field and I expect him to win this.