French racing returns with a bang on Monday with a 10-race card at ParisLongchamp featuring the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt as well as two French classic trials, the Prix de Fontainebleau and the Prix de la Grotte.
The 1m Fontainebleau is a trial for the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) at the same venue on June 1 and sees the eagerly-awaited return of Andre Fabre’s unbeaten Victor Ludorum, who his trainer recently reported “has really benefited from the fine spring”, and is 4/6 favourite for the French Guineas.
Unfortunately Fabre, who has won the Fontainebleau 10 times, won’t also be represented by former French Guineas second favourite Earthlight as he has sprained a fetlock.
Victor Ludorum was last seen when readily landing the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere by three-quarters of a length from Alson over course and distance last October.
That contest also featured Ecrivain (4th), Helter Skelter (5th) and Kenway (7th), who all re-oppose here.
Paddy saw some money for the former on Thursday and it’s easy to see why, as he too was unbeaten before that outing when he was only denied a length on very soft ground.
Sottsass had a sensational 2019 and is odds-on favourite for the D’Harcourt as a result of his French Derby win, in which he beat French 2,000 Guineas hero Persian King by two lengths, and was a brilliant third behind Waldgeist and Enable in the Arc.
Perhaps it is worth noting that his one other defeat last year did come on his seasonal bow and he was also beaten on his racecourse debut in 2018.
According to our boffins Shaman, trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias, is the main danger in this trial for the top-class Prix Ganay and he is an interesting contender stepping up to 10 furlongs for the first time.
This fellow was almost top class over a mile last year, finding only Persian King too powerful in the French 2,000 Guineas. He was runner-up to Romanised in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and on his only start further than that mile, 1m 1f, he won at this venue by a wafer-thin margin from Rockemperor in the Prix la Force.
The de la Grotte, a trial for the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas), is a crackerjack with the first and second favourites for the latter contest, Tropbeau and Khayzaraan, both declared.
The former is also tutored by Fabre, who has won this event eight times, and should be suited stepping up to this mile having won three times over 7f as a two-year-old – including in the Group 2 Prix du Calvados at Deauville in August.
The jury is out whether six furlongs last time in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket was too sharp for her, as she was only beaten two and a quarter lengths into third after not having a clear run over a furlong out and also being hampered late on.
The Freddie Head-trained Khayzaraan will be no pushover, however, as she has been a revelation over this trip, winning her maiden at Deauville in August by nine lengths and then following up with an impressive four-and-a-half length success in a Chantilly conditions event the month after.
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* All odds correct at time of posting and are subject to change.