Since Shamardal won for Godolphin in 2005, only The Grey Gatsby in 2014, trained by Kevin Ryan, has managed to take the French Derby overseas. This year John Gosden trains the pick of the raiding party and his Mishriff impressed with the way he went through the race before running out a four-length winner of the listed Newmarket Stakes last month.
The runner-up Volkan Star franked the form by winning a similar event last weekend, and Mishriff’s smart effort looks at least as good as anything the French trials have thrown up. Paul and Oliver Cole, a stable which does well with its runners in France, send Celtic Art, though he has the potential handicap of being the only one in the field making his reappearance as he was last seen finishing second in a listed race at Deauville last October.
Aidan O’Brien has naturally aimed his bigger guns at Epsom but still has two runners here, including Order of Australia who completed the first four home for his stable in last weekend’s Irish Derby. That was a much improved effort from the maiden on just his third start but his rather laboured way of going about things (blinkered both starts this year) suggests he’ll find things happening too quickly over this shorter trip. Stablemate Fort Myers had a pacemaking role in the Irish 2000 Guineas, though that won’t be an easy job here from the widest draw of all.
Among the home team, Port Guillaume and Hurricane Dream are both unbeaten in three starts. One of two runners for Jean-Claude Rouget, who has won three of the last four Prix du Jockey Clubs, Port Guillaume completed his hat-trick in a minor event at Saint-Cloud in May.
The next three home have all won since, two of whom, Gold Trip (who won the Prix Greffulhe) and Dawn Intello, take him on again here. Hurricane Dream stepped up from two wins in the Provinces to land a minor event over the Jockey Club course and distance last month, but, like Port Guillaume, he needs to find plenty more improvement.
The most interesting pair to have come out of the French trials look to be Pao Alto and Ocean Atlantique who were first and second in the Prix La Force over nine furlongs at Longchamp in May. A son of the 2013 Jockey Club winner Intello, Pao Alto completed a hat-trick with a decisive win on that occasion after travelling well and he’s high on the list of those with place prospects.
The form has worked out well too, with the third horse Chachnak going on to win the Prix de Guiche at Chantilly. However, Pao Alto could find the Andre Fabre-trained Ocean Atlantique, whom he beat a length and a half, a tougher opponent on Sunday.
He too has won since, easily landing the odds by five lengths in a listed race at Deauville where he stood out on form. The son of US triple crown winner American Pharoah was a seven-figure breeze-up purchase last year, and there’s sure to be more improvement to come from him.
But Ocean Atlantique goes into the Jockey Club as his stable’s second string as Fabre’s best chance of landing his fifth Jockey Club lies instead with Victor Ludorum. The Godolphin-owned colt completed a hat-trick in good style in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last October so it was disappointing that he lost his unbeaten record when only third in the Prix de Fontainebleau back at Longchamp on his reappearance.
However, typically for one from his stable, he left his trial form well behind when winning the French 2000 Guineas at Deauville last month and was well on top at the finish with the Fontainebleau winner The Summit no match for him this time. The Summit takes on Victor Ludorum again, as does the Fontainebleau runner-up Ecrivain who clearly didn’t give his true running when last at Deauville. He had only been around a length behind Victor Ludorum when fourth in their first meeting in the Jean-Luc Lagardere.
The clear form pick with the potential to be even better suited by the step up in trip, Victor Ludorum can complete another double in the French colts’ classics for Fabre, something he achieved in 2010 with Lope de Vega, another son of the late Shamardal who himself completed the same double. Stablemate Ocean Atlantique and Pao Alto have the strongest claims to the places, along with Mishriff.
Timeform’s tip for the French Derby