This year’s French Oaks, known locally as the Prix de Diane, looks an incredibly open affair as eleven fillies have been left in the Chantilly showpiece reserved to females. A bit of a change in pace as three of the top four in the betting are Irish trained and it’s the Jessica Harrington-trained Alpine Star that narrowly shades it for me.
The filly was tremendously impressive when taking the Coronation Stakes on her seasonal return by an outstanding four and a half lengths and that victory took Alpine Star’s career tally to three out of four and the manner of that victory at Royal Ascot suggested that the daughter of Sea The Moon should have no problem with the distance here.
Harrington has already tasted success in France as both Albignia and Alpha Centuri have scored in recent seasons across the water, although she is yet to have a winner at Chantilly.
With only eleven runners for this years renewal of the race things could get tactical and Alpine Star is drawn in stall one which will almost force jockey Stephane Pasquier to have the filly positioned towards the head of the field – a tactic that could pay dividends in this select field.
Of the rest of the field I really like the profile of the Donnacha O’Brien trained Fancy Blues and I fully expect her to have come on for that fine run when finishing second in the Irish 1000 Guineas. She was held up quite far back that day and did nothing but stay on that day. Provided the race is run at a ‘normal’ tempo and doesn’t turn into a sprint I think Fancy Blues could play a huge part here, especially as she will be ridden by Pierre Charles Boudot (winner of this race last year on Channel).
Nobody rides Chantilly better than the jockey and he should be able to position Fancy Blues into a good rhythm from stall seven.
Raabihah is the best of the French on paper having won both of her starts easily and the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained filly should take a place on the podium. Jockey Cristian Demuro suggested that
Raabihah could be a Diane filly after her demolition job at ParisLongchamp in May and comes here fresh.
It would be no surprise to see her fight out the finish although she will have to improve again to get near Alpine Star in my book.
The Prix du Jockey Club (that’s the French Derby to you) looks to have more substance to it and I can’t really see the winner coming from outside the top three in the market, as is so often the case in this race.
Trainer Andre Fabre has won this race on three of the last ten renewals and the champion trainer fields two if the principal challengers here.
Ocean Atlantique may be the outsider of the two Fabre-trained runners according to many but for me he has all the attributes needed to land the Jockey Club.
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The Coolmore owned colt has gone from strength to strength and was incredibly impressive on his first start at this trip when scoring at Chantilly a month ago and although he has a few pounds to make up in terms of ratings I think the son of American Pharoah is still firmly on the upgrade.
Connections have made no secret of the highs that they think Ocean Atlantique can reach and I think that if his draw in stall 14 doesn’t cause too many issues then he should take all the beating here – under that man again..PC Boudot.
Pao Alto looked very classy when scoring on his most recent start at ParisLongchamp and could pose the biggest threat to Ocean Atlantique. His trainer Christophe Ferland has had this race as Pao Alto’s target for some time now and with sixteen runners the colts strong running style could really play to his favour here in what could be a messy race. The son of Intello has been successful in three of his four outings and although he has never ran over this distance he has given every indication that it shouldn’t be a problem.
I envisage a difficult race for favourite Victor Ludorum who although is officially the best horse in the race, in a field of this size he could well be handicapped by his draw in stall one. The colt can be keen in his races and the draw has offered little option to his jockey Mickael Barzalona – he will either have to kick on towards the head of the field OR risk getting swamped and find himself behind a wall of horses(very likely at Chantilly). Add that to the obvious stamina question mark and I can’t confidently see him hitting the target.
I think both Port Guillaume and Hurricane Dream could run huge races here, especially the latter who is unbeaten in three starts and has been supplemented by his young trainer Mickel Mescam(a trainer normally associated with national hunt horses).
Each-way pick rest of card
The five-year-old has come tumbling down through the weights in his last few starts but has won some big summertime handicaps of marks in and around this.
The David Smaga yard has started to hit form recently and if El Manifico gets out with a clear run from stall one he can really make his presence felt back over the mile, at quite a nice price too.
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