R2 Prix Greffulhe
Another excellent 3-year-old trial at Saint-Cloud this Monday. The Prix Greffulhe has been won by the likes of Pour Moi, Cloth of Stars, Recoletos and Gold Trip in recent years and whilst we may not have a horse of that quality in this field, there is some depth to the 5-runner field and as all of them step up in trip, they are likely to improve. It's another long shot and there are definitely some more likely winners at Ballydoyle, but there is a small chance that we could see a Derby contender on Monday and they aren't running at the Curragh.
If you have been reading these Race of the Day posts, you’ll probably have noticed that I have a tendency to rank the horses in categories, most simply; unlikely to win, could win, most likely to win. It’s nothing against the horse, it’s just a method that I have found that makes it easier to price a race. So, with that in mind, Zalamo is the horse that I would consider the least likely to win this. He had a busy campaign on the PSF over the winter, winning a maiden at Lyon La Soie in January and then building on that with a Class 1 victory at Chantilly in early February. He got a good ride that day and was able to pounce with a late burst of speed but winning that Class 1 effectively forced his connections to step him up in grade once the Turf season came around and he was readily put in his place in the Group 3 Prix La Force 3-weeks ago. This is an important piece of form as we will come to later down the page but having settled in mid-division he struggled to quicken on the tacky ground and in similar conditions here, it is going to take some considerable improvement for him to feature. His penultimate furlong was run in 10.97s, so there is some speed and ability there, but he has been on the go since November and with the ground looking against him, I can put a line through his name with a fair degree of confidence.
The Home Team
Harry Way and Fortune have already met. They finished second and third in the Group 3 Prix Noailles at Paris Longchamp earlier this month. Harry Way came into that race on the back of a Listed win in the Prix Francois Mathet over today’s course and distance in March, beating a pair of solid yardsticks in the form of Winter Pudding and Back to Black. The latter has dropped back into Class 2 company and won since, so there is some substance to his form, and it should be noted that he has never finished outside of the first 2 in his 7-race career. His ownership was split after the Saint-Cloud win and ran with credit on his first start in the Haras Gousserie silks when attempting to make all at Longchamp, but I think that I can make a case for Fortune reversing that form. He is far less exposed after just 3 starts and after winning on his first 2 starts in the autumn, he was returning from a 5-month break when less than a length behind Harry Way in the Noailles. Having settled in rear, he tracked the eventual winner Flight leader throughout, coming wide to challenge in the straight. He was no match for the impressive winner but made up the best part of 8-lengths on Harry Way in the closing stages, running the final 3-furlongs in a time of 35.84s, the fastest closing splits in the race and almost a second quicker than Harry Way. As they passed the final furlong pole, he clocked a speed of 63.2km/h, over 2km/h faster than Harry Way. Given the smaller field and the fact that he should strip fitter for the run, I do expect him to reverse that form with Harry Way and as he showed when beating the very talented Prince de Paname in November, he does possess a very sharp turn-of-foot. The ground is my concern, the current going description of Collant 4,2, which roughly translates as tacky, is similar to the going reding he encountered at Paris Longchamp but whilst he handled it, it did look to blunt his speed. There is a fair degree of stamina on the Dams side of his pedigree, but he is quite an inexperienced horse, and I can’t be certain he will appreciate this turning into a real slog.
As I stated at the start, the key piece of form in this contest is the Prix La Force and the next horse we come to, Rashford, finished 4th in that race. He is a nice horse who made a winning debut at Dieppe last Summer and backed that up with a 2nd placed finish behind Victoria Road in a Group 3 at Chantilly in September. He came into the Prix La Force on the back of a Class 2 win on the PSF at Deauville in March and ran his usual consistent race, tracking the pace and keeping on without looking like he was going to trouble the winner. He ran the final 3-furlongs in 33.43 seconds and shaped like a horse who will enjoy this step up in trip. The race was a bit of a farce, the order barely changed (Rashford was 4th at every sectional split) and the winner, Big Rock, was able to dictate in front and got first run as they turned for home, but I don’t think Rashford improved to be fourth, even though he had a fitness edge over some of his rivals. He is good value for his rating of 47.5 and he should stay this trip easily, but I’m not sure if there is that much more to come and he has work to do to reverse the form of the Prix La Force.
The Irish Raider
Aiden O’Brien should have a fairly good handle on this form. He ran Londoner in the Prix Noailles who finished a length behind Harry Way and Fortune in fourth and his runner, Greenland, has already finished ahead of Rashford when he was 3rd in the Prix La Force. He is a Saxon Warrior Colt who cost 300,000gns as a Yearling and holds entries in the Dante, the Derby and the Irish Derby. If he wins this race, he will probably take up those Classic entries, albeit as part of the supporting cast for Auguste Rodin. Ryan Moore rode him in the Prix Noailles and although he wasn’t able to get on terms with the winner, he did hit the line well and ran the fastest individual furlong in the race with a 10.71s split between the final 2-furlong poles. He should handle the step up in trip and has already proven that he has a turn-of-foot if this race becomes a tactical affair. The French handicapper rates him 1.5-kilos higher than Rashford and I think that is pretty fair. Christophe Soumillon takes over from Ryan Moore and there is a lot to like. He would be a 25/1 shot in the Derby itself if they go that route, but he would have a chance of hitting the frame and if I think he might be 3rd or 4th in a Derby, then I have to think he will win this.
Harry Way looks likely to lead, but we know a lot about him and by the time they reach the 2-furlong pole, I would expect both Fortune and Greenland to be upsides and that’s where his race should end. With conditions in his favour, Greenland should have too much for Fortune in the closing stages and when I priced this race on Saturday morning, I was optimistically hoping for 6/4 about the Ballydoyle runner and that is exactly where he has opened up. Rashford was able to get alongside him at Paris Longchamp, but he pulled out more in the closing stages and there is no reason to think that form would be reversed. Fortune had a lot to do in the Prix Noailles and if he gets a more prominent ride, he should probably be capable of reversing form with Harry Way (I certainly think that he should be a shorter price in the market than Harry Way). Fortune should be the second favourite, as he is the most likely winner if Greenland disappoints, but Aiden O’Brien’s charge looks like he is still improving and the step up in trip ought to take him to another level, which may well prove to be a class above this field. If the 6/4 holds until race time, that looks a very fair bet to me.