Stephane Pasquier dispensed high-fives to punters all around the paddock after winning the Grand Prix de Paris aboard Erupt here on Tuesday evening, and was perhaps starting to wonder if he will get a chance to do so again after the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Treve, the winner for the last two seasons, and Golden Horn, an outstanding Derby winner, are among Erupt’s possible opponents on the first Sunday in October, but he remains unbeaten after four starts and showed courage as well as class to win at Group One level for the first time.
Golden Horn’s Derby form was represented by Storm The Stars, who was third home at Epsom, in Tuesday’s race, which is the most prestigious 12-furlong prize for three-year-olds in the French calendar. Balios, an impressive winner of the King Edwards VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, was also in the field, along with Ampere, unbeaten in two starts for Andre Fabre.
It was the two unbeaten colts who emerged in front. Ampere could probably have finished closer than the two lengths that separated him from Erupt at the line had Mickael Barzalona, his jockey, not been forced to wait for running room as the winner came past him approaching the final furlong. Yet if Erupt got first run on Ampere, he more than made the most of it, and stayed on strongly to ensure that the race did not become a battle to the line.
Erupt was saddled by Francis-Henri Graffard, who was recording his first success in a thoroughbred Group One. A former assistant to Alain de Royer-Dupre, he left to train on his own account in the autumn of 2011 and has already attracted several leading owners including the Niarchos family, whose silks were aboard Erupt. The winner was quoted at around 16-1 for the Arc by British bookmakers immediately after the race, and there was never any doubt that it would be named as the colt’s principal target this autumn.
“The [Prix] Niel [on Arc trials day in September] and the Arc,” Alan Cooper, racing manager to the Niarchos family, said afterwards. “We always thought he was a nice horse in the making, and he’s bred on the dam’s side to get a mile-and-a-half while Dubawi is an excellent sire. He’s won on very fast ground at Chantilly and it was fast at Lyon when he won a Listed race there. Today it was good safe ground but soft ground will help him.”
Storm The Stars came out narrowly in front in a blanket finish for third, ahead of Silverware and Balios, while Archangel Raphael, ridden by Joseph O’Brien for his father Aidan, dropped out to finish last after setting a steady early pace.
Maureen Haggas, representing her husband William, the trainer of Storm The Stars, was a positive as possible after seeing the colt finish placed in a Group One for the third time in a row without ever looking a likely winner.
“He’s probably not run quite up to his previous form, he’s not the easiest and it’s difficult here with lots of horses everywhere, including fillies,” Haggas said. “His mind wasn’t quite on the job and he didn’t enjoy the parade much, but he’s still been third in a Group One so we can’t be too downhearted. We’ll give him a bit of a break now and maybe come back for York or the Leger. He’s had a lot of racing but he’s tough and he’s taken it, and this was too good an opportunity to turn down.”
Balios finished with a cut on his right foreleg, while David Simcock was frustrated that the race had turned into a sprint in the straight.
“It was a messy race for him, very stop-start and it turned into a sprint, but at the same time he’s run well,” Simcock said. “He’s right on the tail of the Derby third, so no complaints, there’ll be races that suit him better.”
The Grand Prix de Paris dates back to 1863 and was the most important event in the French racing calendar for more than half a century until the inauguration of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in the 1920s. Its distance has varied over the years, from around 15 furlongs for much of its existence to 10 furlongs in the late 1980s, before settling at 12 furlongs in 2005, the same year that the French Derby was cut from 12 furlongs to 10. As a result, it is a ideal target for impeccably bred middle-distance colts that are not ready in time for the Classics in May but will be reaching a peak in October.
Rail Link, who was the 9th of 13 winners of this race for Andre Fabre back in 2006, was the last colt to win both the Grand Prix de Paris and the Arc, but 16-1 is a fair price about Erupt at this stage while Ampere too could yet enter the reckoning. Ampere received an odd ride given the steady early pace, settled four or five lengths off the lead by Barzalona, and the race was as good as over by the time he was able to set off after the winner in the final furlong.
A crowd of a few thousand was scattered around the grand expanse of the racecourse in the Bois de Boulogne for the last running of the Grand Prix at the course in its current incarnation. The bulldozers are due to arrive on 5 October, the day after the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, to begin a major redevelopment, which will see many of France’s major events moved elsewhere in 2016.
The Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, France’s equivalent of the 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas respectively, will be run at Deauville next year, while the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is booked in for Chantilly, France’s main training centre, a 40-minute train ride from the Gare du Nord. A new location for the most historic race of all, however, has yet to be decided.
Curvy, the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, is the new ante-post favourite for the Darley Irish Oaks at The Curragh on Sunday after she was added to the field at the supplementary stage on Tuesday by David Wachman, her trainer.
Covert Love, who has won three times for Hugo Palmer this season including a Listed event at Newcastle last month, was also supplemented for the Classic, but Aidan O’Brien’s Diamondsandrubies, who had been expected to start favourite after winning the Pretty Polly Stakes, was not among the 16 fillies still engaged at the five-day stage.
O’Brien is still responsible for seven of the possible runners, including Qualify, the winner of the Oaks at Epsom, Words and Together Forever. Words, a daughter of Dansili out of the 2008 Irish Oaks winner Moonstone, beat a field that included Qualify when successful on her debut in a maiden at The Curragh last June and also won her only subsequent start, a Group Three event at Cork last month.
Other possible runners from Britain include Forte (trained by Ralph Beckett), Gretchen (John Gosden) and Speeding Boarding (James Fanshawe).
Curvy is top-priced at 5-2, ahead of Words on 7-2 and Pleascach, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, on 7-1. Qualify is a 9-1 chance with Covert Love next at 10-1 and it is 12-1 bar.
Meanwhile, French jockey Olivier Peslier will be on board Telescope in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on July 25.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old has been partnered by Ryan Moore on 12 of his 14 career starts but the rider is on the sidelines after a stalls incident at Newmarket last week.
A statement on the Highclere website posted on Tuesday read: “Sir Michael Stoute has confirmed that Telescope will have the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes as his next target.
“Telescope is a very strong travelling horse and needs a proper Group One pace to be at his very best, so hopefully with the King George hotting up with entries such as Golden Horn, this year’s contest will be a truly-run race.
“Golden Horn has shown himself to be head and shoulders above all his rivals so far this season, winning the Dante, Derby and Eclipse, but Telescope has been knocking on the door in Group One company for a while and heads to Ascot with as a good a chance as he had last year. Olivier Peslier, who won the King George on [the Highclere-owned] Harbinger five years ago, is booked to ride.”
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