It’s Grand Prix weekend on both sides of the Channel and fans of both types of horsepower will be able to enjoy the racing at both Silverstone and Longchamp on Sunday as the Grand Prix de Paris is in its usual slot on an evening card that celebrates France’s national day.
Whether there will be a French winner of the Grand Prix de Paris for the locals to cheer is another matter, but five of the eight runners are home-trained and three of those are saddled by the race’s most successful trainer Andre Fabre. The Grand Prix has fallen to Fabre on thirteen occasions, including with the likes of Subotica, Peintre Celebre and Rail Link who all went on to be Arc winners. There doesn’t appear to be another one of those among his three candidates this year, though Slalom and Roman Candle, who both contested the Prix du Jockey Club last time, should be suited by the step up to a mile and a half for the first time.
Roman Candle was a neck winner of the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud before his never-nearer fifth in the Jockey Club, faring better at Chantilly than stablemate Slalom who never got into the race after a slow start. However, Slalom was unbeaten in three starts beforehand, finishing strongly to land the Prix Noailles over an extended ten furlongs here in April, and is potentially the pick of the French colts in the line-up. Fabre’s third runner In Favour gives sponsors Juddmonte a representative in their race, and he’s proven at the trip, but his two wins from six starts in much lesser company are far removed from the standard required here.
Jean Claude-Rouget won the Prix du Jockey Club with Sottsass but his runner here is Soft Light who was only fifth behind Slalom in the Noailles. He has fared better since but suffered a couple of narrow and rather frustrating defeats in the process. The first was in a listed race over course and distance where he looked the winner for much of the straight only to be nabbed late by Jalmoud but, in a bid to avoid a repeat of that, the waiting tactics were probably overdone when he came with a late rattle to be beaten a neck by Jalmoud’s stablemate Al Hilalee in the Prix Hocquart over this trip at Chantilly last month.
Jalmoud has had mixed fortunes since beating Soft Light, as he pulled much too hard when stepped up in trip for the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot but quickly returned to form when runner-up to the impressive Headman in the Prix Eugene Adam back at a mile and a quarter at Saint-Cloud just a fortnight ago. However, he’s very much bred to be suited by this trip – by Derby winner New Approach out of Oaks winner Dancing Rain – and it’s interesting that Charlie Appleby is turning him out again relatively quickly having originally nominated the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood as his next possible race.
The Aga Khan’s Kasaman is the other French colt in the field and has improved with each run (just three starts to date), though he needs to step up again having finished only fourth of five in the Hocquart last time.
But all of those mentioned so far face the might of Japan – Aidan O’Brien’s runner that is, not an early Arc contender from the Far East. It’s unusual for a horse in a Group 1 to have a stone in hand on Timeform ratings, but that’s the size of the task that his rivals face, and the bad news for them is that Japan’s season is only just getting into gear. His run in the Dante at York was a clear case of the race coming too soon, while in the Derby it was the finishing line that came too early. However, everything clicked for Japan in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last time when he stormed clear off a strong pace to win by four and a half lengths, a performance at least as good as his Epsom effort where he was only half a length behind stable-companion Anthony Van Dyck in third.
Japan could yet be a classic winner before the season’s out, though, as he looks a genuine St Leger contender, very much in the Kew Gardens mould who himself won the Grand Prix de Paris for the same connections twelve months ago on his way to Doncaster. Kew Gardens had also been successful beforehand at Royal Ascot, though in the Queen’s Vase. A mile and three quarters will suit Japan too in due course, so a good test at this trip is going to be important to him. That’s almost certainly where stablemate Western Australia will come in – his recent efforts won’t be good enough to win this but he’s been running over longer trips lately and he can set a gallop that will prevent this becoming too much of a test of speed.
Slalom is a lot better than he showed last time, having looked a promising colt prior to the Prix du Jockey Club, and is an each-way option, but it will be a surprise if Japan isn’t capable of collecting a first Group 1 prize
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