EVENTS leading up to the renewal of Europe’s greatest race strongly suggest the gods are looking down on people’s champion ENABLE as she attempts to create history in Paris today (Sunday).
The six-year-old is a red hot favourite to become the first three-times winner of the coveted prize, but whilst pitfalls surrounded her at the start of the week, some of those have been taken away without the mare even having to leave her box in Newmarket.
First, market rival Love was dramatically ruled out with a minor problem, while at time of writing a problem with contaminated feed is threatening to also eliminate the appearances of that dual Classic-winning filly’s stablemates SERPENTINE, MOGUL and JAPAN.
Furthermore, in the ‘pin pull’ for the contest, fortune favoured the John Gosden-trained Enable as she drew stall 5, while STRADIVARIUS was handed the unfavoured 14 gate in a field of 15.
It seems ENABLE just needs to show she can handle the very heavy underfoot conditions in the Bois Du Boulogne to stamp herself as one of the immortals in her sport. Though beaten in the Eclipse on seasonal return at Sandown, she completed a fantastic three-timer in the ‘King George’ at Ascot, and in her final prep took out Kempton’s September Stakes in a hack canter. It was only in the final 100 metres that she yielded to Waldgeist in this race 12 months ago, and without question Dettori will play his cards a lot later in view of the stamina-draining conditions that will prevail on Sunday.
Whilst doubts remain over the participation of the Ballydoyle horses, of whom Investec Derby winner SERPENTINE was supplemented into the race, the French challenge is a lot weaker than usual. The best of the locals, and one that is a must for all exotic investments, is the Jean-Claude Rouget trained SOTTSASS.
Rouget has played a waiting game with the son of Siyouni, who beat PERSIAN KING in a memorable finish to the French Derby at Chantilly last year. Sottsass landed another Group 1 at that track in June and was then given a break before a narrow defeat to Skalleti at Deauville and a creditable fourth, beaten two lengths by Magical in the Irish Champion Stakes. The chestnut is now back to his optimum distance, and should land some form of blow.
Persian King has shown his best form for Andre Fabre over a mile. He was recently the subject of a high profile sale and the feeling is the bold move of trying him over a mile and a half has been instigated by owner rather than trainer, as this is now his last roll of the dice.
On reflection Stradivarius lost little caste in defeat when failing to get past Anthony Van Dyck in a slowly run Prix Foy. He had earlier completed an unprecedented four-timer in the Goodwood Cup, and on this ground could easily take home a large cheque in spite of his draw, as many in the field will have called enough when reaching the closing stages, whilst he will be staying on.
If there’s a joker in the pack that’s gone under the radar then that horse might be IN SWOOP. Francis Graffard’s charge is the most unexposed contender in the race, and was having just a fifth outing when second to Mogul in the Grand Prix De Paris. His German pedigree will lend itself to the terrain, and he needs to be taken seriously.
Prediction: 1st ENABLE, 2nd Sottsass, 3rd Stradivarius, 4th In Swoop, 5th Serpentine, 6th Persian King.