Last year master Newmarket trainer John Gosden captured France’s premier Classic – Chantilly’s G1 Prix du Jockey Club (2100m) – and he has a two-strong raid planned for this Sunday (6 June). Supported by some other smart Anglo-Irish contenders, the French colts may again prove vulnerable.
Gosden – now in training partnership with his son Thady – won last year with Mishriff though few could have predicted that only a few races later the son of Make Believe would go on to win this year’s Saudi Cup (1800m, dirt) in Riyadh – the world’s richest race – and for good measure follow up by landing the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan.
The Gosden team contenders this time are Derab (Martin Harley) and Megallan (Olivier Peslier) with Derab especially interesting being a half-brother to the same stable’s superstar Enable.
Of course, that means that Derab has an awful lot to live up to but the way he pulverised 12 rivals in a Newmarket novices’ event over a mile last month – easing to a six and a half-length winning margin without almost zero jockey pressure being applied – suggests that he just might.
John Gosden is staying cautious on the subject of Derab, but jockey Harley sums up the Gosden approach. "Yes, it is a big step up in grade but the team wouldn’t be running him if they didn’t think that he had a realistic chance."
What that team will hope most is that Derab gets a clean passage with the Prix du Jockey Club attracting a big field this year, and especially as this prestigious event has the occasional history of being a rough battle for position before the home straight has been reached.
France’s premier Classic has eluded Aidan O’Brien so far. But he is trying to put that right by running Van Gogh (Colin Keane) and St Mark’s Basilica (Ioritz Mendizabal) who could start favourite as he attempts to become the first horse since Brametot in 2017 to win the two three-year-old colts’ Classics – Longchamp’s G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1600m) and this weekend’s Prix du Jockey Club.
Showing terrific acceleration, St Mark’s Basilica won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains with complete authority, the biggest question now being whether he can reveal the same acceleration over the notably more demanding stamina test required at Chantilly on Sunday.
O’Brien says: "Everything was coming a bit quick for him last year but he got it all together when winning the Dewhurst (G1, 1400m Newmarket). He is a lovely, straightforward honest horse and we’re delighted with what he achieved at Longchamp. Now we’re just hoping that he stays the trip at Chantilly. "
Van Gogh is also a G1 winner for the stable in France, surviving heavy ground to land Saint-Cloud’s G1 Criterium International (1600m) last October. Despite scoring on that surface O’Brien thinks that this imposing son of American Pharoah prefers a much better surface, so he won’t be disappointed that current predictions suggest that the ground will be good at Chantilly on Sunday.