After yesterday’s Epsom classics, in which the Derby produced a jaw dropping result, part two of the weekend’s classics took place in France, together with the mouth-watering Eclipse Stakes, Group 1 at Sandown. Of the four classics, the Prix de Diane (The French Oaks) looked on paper as the class contest of the four, but were all going to be eclipsed at Sandown with Enable, Ghaiyyath, Japan and Magic Wand all taking part in the seven runner race.
In France on Sunday, the second brace of classics were run at the beautiful Chantilly track. The Prix du Jockey Club, (The French Derby) saw sixteen runners go to post for the 1 mile 2 furlong contest. Rather like the English Derby, this was a fairly ordinary bunch, but generally, the runners seem to be more on a par with each other. Runners expected to do well, were headed by Victor Ludorum, trained by Andre Fabre, a horse who had been beaten only once in his five races and is the winner of two Group 1 races including the French Two Thousand Guineas in June at Deauville, a flat track similar to Chantilly – so he had to be favourite. Others of some note before the off were Mishriff, sent over to France by John Gosden, another Fabre runner, Ocean Atlantique and Pao Alto, winner of the Group 3 Prix la Force trained by Christophe Ferland.
This ended up being a surprising win for the Gosden trained Mishriff. Although horses sent to France by Gosden were not going for their health, the trainer said the horse was in good order, but to turn over Victor Ludorum seemed to be a big ask. Ridden by Loritz Mendizbat, who was the winning jockey in this contest last year, Mishriff ran keenly to start with, but despite this was able to kick on at the 2 furlong marker and stayed on strongly winning by 1 and ¾ lengths. Victor Ludorum was very slowly away and never really got into the race and was beaten into third place by Summit, who was well placed throughout the race and did in fact take the lead, but at 100 yards out could find no more. This was the first time a British trained horse has won this French Classic since 2014.
The Prix de Diane, (The French Oaks) was possibly the quality classic of the four over the weekend. With eleven runners going to post, four looked to have outstanding chances. Three of these were sent over from Ireland. The first was Alpine Star, trained by Jessica Harrington, was the recent Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot – The Coronation Stakes over a mile, and her pedigree suggested that the extra 2 furlongs she would need to run in this would not inconvenience. Others of note were a brace of fillies sent by the O’Briens’ – the first from Aiden, Peaceful who was switched from the Epsom contest, and who won the Irish Thousand Guineas and the second from Donnacha O’Brien, Fancy Blue, second in the Guineas in Ireland with this stoutly bred filly by Deep Impact out of Saddlers Wells mare. The fourth one of note was the French trained Raabihah from the Jean Claude Rouget yard. This filly had run twice and was unbeaten, her last outing winning a listed contest at Longchamp over 1 mile 3 furlongs. She is by Sea The Stars out of a Kingmambo mare. Donnacha O’Brien only took out his trainer’s license this year and had only three winners, but Fancy Blue saw him get his first classic win; beating his father Aiden, who despite his training brilliance has still never won this race. The Irish contested every part of this race with Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star coming second with Peaceful in third. The best of the French horses was Raabihah who came in fourth. In the race, Alpine Star soon took the lead and was headed by the winner a furlong out, and despite a valiant effort did not have the legs to take the lead once again. Peaceful became rather short of room midway in the race, but nevertheless, managed to push on to challenge the leaders in the final 100 yards. The Fancy Blue was ridden by Pierre Charles Boudot.
They say, “keep the best till last” and this was certainly the case for the running of the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. This was always going to be the mouth-watering race of the weekend with the great filly Enable making her 2020 debut. Would she win though? She was sent off as favourite of the seven runners, but she would be – every time she pokes her nose out of Clarehaven Stables, she is favourite. This was a class contest over 1 mile 2 furlongs for 4 year olds and up. Other serious contenders were Ghaiyyath, easy winner of the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket, trained by Charlie Appleby and another brace from Aiden O’Brien, Japan and Magic Wand. Japan was well beaten on his only start at Ascot recently, but looked as if he needed the race – rather portly – and Magic Wand won a Group 2 race at the Curragh in mid-June. Of the other three, Deirdre looked an interesting runner, having been sent over from Japan by Mitsuru Hashida. Enable looked really well in the paddock as did they all, especially Japan who stripped a much fitter sleaker.
John Gosden did say before the off that his mare was probably only 85% fit and she preferred the mile and half trip as well, so this could be a very big ask. Ghaiyyath was slow out of the stalls and Japan took the lead, but Ghaiyyath soon took over. As the runners took a small breather mid-way through the race, the leader quietly managed to extend his lead. Unlike last year, when Ghaiyyath’s form was very in and out, as a five year old, his consistency was evident. He just kept going to win ahead of a fast running Enable with Japan coming third. This was, with no doubt the race of the season so far and is likely to be remembered as one of the top contests of the 2020; as the renewal this year was much stronger in class than in recent times. Ghaiyyath was ridden by William Buick and the win was a great birthday present for his trainer Charlie Appleby. Both Ghaiyyath and Enable may well meet again in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot next time, and I for one would not want to bet on the outcome, with the stallion’s renewed vigour this year!
Finally, at Belmont Park in America, the first of the Group 1 races was the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap Stakes for 3 year olds and up over a mile on the dirt and had eight runners. It was won by Verkoma who made all and was ridden by Janvier Castellano. Before the off, the two favourites were the Bob Baffert trained McKinzie and Verkoma trained by George Weaver. McKinzie settled in mid division but was very flat footed when asked to take his chance.
In the second Group 1 – The Manhattan Stakes for 4 year olds and up on the turf over 1 mile 2 furlongs, there were also eight runners. This time, the talked of horses were the two Chad Brown trained horses, Instilled Regard and Devamani with a third, Sadler’s Joy trained by Thomas Albertrani. Instilled Regard duly obliged – he raced in the rear until half way when asked to make his move. At the two furlong marker, he kept on strongly going to the front for jockey Irad Irtiz Jr. The second home was also trained by Chad Brown, Rockemperor who did have the lead 100 yards out but just didn’t quite have the legs to see the race through – thus he was beaten by a neck.
The editor Bernard Simpson has been involved with horses and the industry for over 40 years. Together with his wife, he bred many flat racehorses including some which were Royal Ascot winners. He is also experienced in equine media using video, photography and journalism. Bernard currently lives in Wiltshire. He and guest authors now present this blog and hope you like our articles.
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