We have the final fields, we have the draw, the predicted going and the makeup of each race, so it is time for the 1st French Classics of the year. These races have been good to the French runners in recent years, with 8 of the last 10 winners of the Poulains and 9 of the last 10 winners of the Pouliches being trained in France. For what it is worth I do have a theory on this and that is the timing of the races, which fall between the English and Irish Guineas every season. As a result, horses who go to Newmarket or the Curragh are less likely to take in the French equivalent and the runners who do make the trip across the Channel are generally those considered not good enough for those races. There are some exceptions of course, St Marks Basilica last season being the most obvious. He was campaigned specifically to run in both the Pule d’Essai des Poulains and then the Prix du Jockey Club because those races suited him more than Newmarket and Epsom, but on the whole, the theory rings true.
Until the races are run you should never make too many assumptions, but a close examination of both fields would suggest that there isn’t a horse of St Marks Basilicas ability in this years Guineas and there is an open feel to both races. The statistics would suggest that you need a lightly raced horse with a good draw, with Andre Fabre leading the way with the Colts and Jean-Claude Rouget with the fillies in the last 10-years. No real surprise there, that probably describes the majority of 3-year-old races in France, but the markets do offer more of an indication into how each race unfolds. For the Colts, 3 of the last 10 SP favourites on the International market have won, but perhaps more significantly, 9 of the last 10 winners had an SP of 5/1 or shorter. By contrast, whilst 3 of the Favourites for the Fillies race have also won, 5 of the last 10 winners had an SP of 10/1 or greater, suggesting that the betting public have a better handle on the form for the boys.
I don’t propose to go through every runner and possible scenario for these races as it would take too long and it is very difficult to compare the form of horses from different countries. Instead I am going to stick to my theory that the French are likely to win both of their Guineas races this year and I have picked a horse for both that I intend to back. Here’s who and why…
Poule d’Essai des Poulains - LASSAUT
Given that the average draw of the winner of this race in the last 10-years has been stall 4 and 9 of the 10 winners have been drawn in stall 6 or below, I was anxious to wait before getting involved in this race. Hence my delight on Friday morning when Lassaut pulled trap 3. That’s the first part of the puzzle safely put together.
Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget and ridden by Cristian Demuro, this son of Almanzor only made his debut at Deauville in December but he has quickly developed into one of the leading 3-year-old prospects in France. A winner on his 2nd start at Chantilly in March, he stepped up to the mile for the first time when winning the Class 1 Prix Machado over this course and distance in April, recording a 3/4 length success over Andre Fabre’s Tribalist.
In comparison to some of his rivals, he will need to improve again but after just 3 starts he is almost certainly capable of doing so. He ran the final 2 furlongs in 10.86s and 11.30s last time on ground officially described as Good to Soft and he looked to win with a lot in hand. Both he and Tribalist, who also takes his chance in the Poulains, were held up that day, but it was the manner in which Lassaut quickened to the front that gives me most hope he will be capable of making his mark in this company. Well drawn, he has many of the main protagonists around him, with Charlie Appleby Modern News in stall 4 next door and from there I expect him to be able to get into a decent position. He has already shown that he can handle the downhill bends at Paris Longchamp, which many of his rivals need to prove and that should give him a great chance on Sunday.
Poule d’Essai des Pouliches - ROSACEA
This looks a much more difficult puzzle to solve and a case could theoretically be made for all 15 Fillies who go to post. Much like the Colts race, a low draw is crucial and there is nothing better than Stall 1, so am delighted to see that Rosacea has landed the plum stall. With the English Guineas winner Cachet drawn out in stall 10, she is going to need to expend some early energy from there if she is to repeat her all the way heroics from Newmarket and given the record of British and Irish horses in this race (just 1 winner in the last 10 years from 33 runners) I’d be keen to take her on anyway.
At the time of writing this, the Stephane Wattel yard have had 2 winners from 8 runners so far this week and their stable star could round off a superb 7-days for them on Sunday. The winner of 4 of her 5 career starts, including over this course and distance in the Prix de la Grotte last month, she has many of the attributes needed for a race like this. She is tough and finds well when asked for maximum effort, which could be crucial in a race that is likely to be a strongly run affair. She holds entries in both the Prix Saint Alary and the Prix de Diane, which would suggest that she is likely to stay further than the mile, which should mean she is doing her best work at the finish on Sunday and I expect her to run very well.