French Connection - classic clues examined
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French Connection - classic clues examined
Posted on 23 May 2020
Well, that was the week that was. Or nine days to be more precise - the time it took for racing at the Parisian tracks to cease again after its initial resumption from coronavirus shutdown.

Thankfully the sport has been allowed to continue in other, selected parts of France - most notably Normandy where the fashionable seaside resort of Deauville is home to a Grade 1 course ideally equipped to fill the void.

This is the historic venue that takes centre stage every August anyway, with a month-long festival packed with top races, and it’s no stranger to hosting early-season classics on a stand-in basis either.

Deauville fulfilled that role as recently as 2016 and 2017, when Longchamp was closed for redevelopment, and it’s due to step into the breach again on Monday week (1st June).

Once more the feature races will be the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Poule d’Essai des Poulains - the French equivalent of our 1000 and 2000 Guineas.

The latter in particular promises to be a fascinating affair in which Victor Ludorum remains the chief focus despite his odds-on defeat in the Prix de Fontainebleau at Longchamp on day one of resumption.

This, remember, is the colt Andre Fabre has compared to the legendary Mill Reef, the horse lauded by the veteran master trainer as the best he’s seen.

Mill Reef of course could only finish second in his Guineas, but was beaten by another icon of the turf in Brigadier Gerard and it’s safe to assume Victor Ludorum won’t have such a formidable rival to overcome in the Poulains.

As a trial, the Fontainebleau wasn’t a disaster for the favourite. Caught wide off a slow pace on soft ground, he pulled way too hard for the first half of the race and duly paid for those exertions late on.

What characterised his unbeaten two-year-old career was an ability to quicken impressively under a hold-up ride, even on very soft ground in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc day.

With the freshness out of him, and in a more competitively-run race, we should get to see the real Victor Ludorum at Deauville - potentially a sight to behold if Fabre’s faith in him is borne out.

If all goes well there, the Godolphin-owned son of Sharmadal will bid to further enhance his reputation in the Prix du Jockey Club, in which stablemate Ocean Atlantique could prove a serious rival.

Ditto the equally promising Pao Alto, who beat the latter in the nine-furlong Prix La Force three days after the Fontainebleau. 

Christophe Ferland’s colt clocked a smart time in an unusually well-run trial (by French standards) and looks sure to improve on pedigree going up again in distance, though he is set to drop back a furlong initially for the Poulains.

Ocean Atlantique, who had to wait for a gap and stretched out eye-catchingly well when it finally appeared, will definitely be going over further as Fabre said beforehand the Force trip was on the sharp side for him.

Owned by Coolmore, there remains the possibility he could go for the Derby - if international travel restrictions allow - and try to emulate Pour Moi, whom Fabre trained for the same connections to triumph at Epsom nine years ago.

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