MISS FRANCE wins the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket (04/05/2014)
14.45 – Le Prix De Diane
(3yo, 1m 2f 96y, Group I, 12 runners)
After the Arc, the Prix de Diane at Chantilly draws the biggest crowds in French flat racing. Unfortunately, this is due as much to the concerts, fairgrounds, and fashion shows of the ‘event’ as it is to the actual racing. In fact, beyond the Diane itself, it is a relatively lowly occasion, with only 2 Group IIIs to complement the main attraction along with a collection of Handicaps, Claimers, and Conditional Jockeys’ contests.
But don’t let me dampen your enthusiasm too much as I can tell you from experience that, whether you’re interested in hats, horse racing, or both, Diane Day is a fine experience and this year’s feature race will certainly outshine the sideshow!
It seems appropriate on a day famed for its elegance and femininity that one of the favourites should be a filly named MISS FRANCE, who rose to prominence as a 2yo when winning the 2013 Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket for André Fabre.
Following this victory she shot to the top of the markets for most of the following year’s fillies’ Classics, but her reputation took a dent when she could manage only 6th in a Maisons-Laffitte Group III on her reappearance in April 2014.
However, this race was certainly not run to suit and the horses who beat her, including Group I winner Vorda and recent French 1,000 Guineas 3rd XCELLENCE, are not to be sniffed at.
In any case, Monsieur Fabre appeared unperturbed by the run and hence aimed his filly at the English 1,000 Guineas. Sent off at 7/1 for this race, she travelled sweetly and stuck on well at the finish to win by a neck from subsequent Irish Guineas 2nd Lightning Thunder.
With this form under her belt and a good break to freshen her up, she looks to have a fine chance of landing a 2nd Classic, especially as she won her Maiden at Chantilly and will have the assistance of the very capable LOCAL HERO as a pace-setter. What is more, she has been drawn in stall 1, which should allow Maxime Guyon to get her a good spot in a race in which low numbers are generally favoured.
The one question mark is whether she will stay the trip.
Unlike the traditional 1m4f distance of most Derby and Oaks-style races, the French ‘middle distance’ Classics are run over 10 and a half furlongs (2100m), but it is possible that this may still prove too much for this Dansili filly.
Though a fine racehorse and an even better sire, Dansili never won over more than a mile, but his progeny, who include King George, Grand Prix de Paris, and Arc winners, have nonetheless shown admirable stamina. And as a daughter of Miss Tahiti, who was 2nd in the 1996 Diane, MISS FRANCE could well have inherited staying quality on her dam side too. So if Fabre thinks she will stay then he’s probably right!
Currently available at 9/2, she looks likely to play a big part.
Despite MISS FRANCE’sClassic-winning profile, the filly heading the Diane market is Alain de Royer-Dupré’s SHAMKALA. Owned by the Aga Khan, who has seen his green and red colours carried to victory in this famous race on 7 occasions since 1993, this daughter of top sprinter and hugely successful sire Pivotal is unbeaten in 3 outings.
Having only made her debut last October, she is yet to have her limits tested and scored easily in the Group III Prix Cléopâtre over the Diane trip at Saint-Cloud last time out.
As a guaranteed stayer with a huge margin for progression and seemingly no going preference, SHAMKALA is a worthy favourite, even if she is yet to prove her Group I quality. But at a best price of 13/8, I prefer to take a slight risk on MISS FRANCE.
And the English 1,000 Guineas winner is not the only Classic heroine in Sunday’s field, as we also have Jean-Claude Rouget’s AVENIR CERTAIN, who took her unbeaten record to 4 when landing what looked a competitive edition of the French 1,000 Guineas in good style on 11/05.
Having only raced up to a mile on either fibresand or softish ground, we are entitled to have some doubts about this daughter of Le Havre and indeed her trainer has said, truly enough, that we won’t know if she stays … until she stays.
So with these question marks around her and a best price of 7/2, she won’t be carrying my money.
Of those at bigger prices, XCELLENCE, who was already mentioned above, and BAWINA tie in with AVENIR CERTAIN on the Guineas form. Judged on that race, it seems unlikely they will be able to challenge the principals, but BAWINA’s Guineas run does deserve marking up as she was hampered at a crucial stage before running on strongly for 4th. Jockey Olivier Peslier is also particularly sweet on her, though a draw in stall 12 of 12 will not make things easy.
And finally I must mention BALL DANCING, who was this week supplemented at a cost of €66,000 for the race. It was clearly not foreseen that this US-bred filly would have Classic aspirations, but she has shown sharp progress for trainer Pia Brandt and beat some well-touted sorts in a Listed at Longchamp over 1m3f in May before taking 2nd in the Group III Prix du Royaumont over 1m4f on French Derby day.
It remains to be seen whether she has the class for a Diane and her rivals are formidable, but we know she will stay and her under-rated trainer is very much capable of challenging her more illustrious counterparts. BALL DANCING is currently available at 25/1, but I would recommend hunting around for the biggest price you can find and having a small each-way investment.
So on a day on which elegance and femininity are to the fore, I am hoping MISS FRANCE and BALL DANCING will have an appropriately prominent position!
MISS FRANCE – 1pt WIN @ 7/2
BALL DANCING – Half pt EW @ 25/1 or the biggest you can find
Alex @ The Winning Post.
The WP – Where every Post’s a Winning one!