As Jamie Lynch touches upon in his weekly column, Sunday’s Prix Jacques la Marois at Deauville is a race with plenty of history. Named after the course’s former president, the race was originally restricted to three-year-olds in its formative years. After wartime spells at Maisons-Laffitte and Longchamp, the race returned to the no-longer-German-occupied Deauville in 1946, and was subsequently opened to horses aged four or older in 1952.
However, this year’s renewal is all about the classic generation, led by Alpha Centauri who is owned by the Niarchos family. The significance? The Niarchos family also own the Fresnay-le-Buffard stud, sponsors of the race since 1986 and owners of the winning horse on eight occasions. Can the Jessica Harrington-trained Alpha Centauri provide them with their ninth, some 15 years after Six Perfections won as a three-year-old?
The obvious answer is yes. Alpha Centauri is a high-class performer who won the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh in May and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (by six lengths from Threading) in June. She then completed a Group 1 hat-trick in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket last time by four and a half lengths from Altyn Orda, clearly unfazed and untroubled by her older rivals as she tanked along in front before quickening clear over two furlongs out.
Domination.— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) 13 July 2018
Alpha Centauri sparkles in the Falmouth Stakes and takes her third straight Group 1 of the season for Jessie Harrington and Colm O'Donoghue
Ante-post 👉 https://t.co/yooymOtYbQ pic.twitter.com/UGCdEvDf6k
In terms of ratings, that performance put her in the same bracket as dual Falmouth winner Soviet Song (126 at her peak), and it’s no surprise that connections have taken the next logical step to test her against the male milers in this race – a contest that both her granddam East of The Moon and great-grandam Miesque won – rather than the Matron Stakes or Sun Chariot Stakes, both more conventional routes.
Talking of routes, the Jacques la Marois is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, a number of races which guarantee the winner a berth at Churchill Downs in November. A win here would give Alpha Centauri a free shot at the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a race won by Miesque (twice), Six Perfections, and another former Niarchos-owned Jacques la Marois winner Spinning World, as well as dual runner-up Domedriver.
One horse who already has a golden ticket for Kentucky is the Queen Anne Stakes winner Accidental Agent. A very smart performer, he is considered by some (including his trainer Eve Johnson Houghton) as something of an Ascot straight-mile specialist; he won the seven-furlong Challenge Cup (by half a length from Lord Glitters) there in 2017 and produced a clear career-best effort when beating the same rival by the same distance in the Queen Anne. Though it was a below-par renewal and he was possibly helped by the way the race developed, with a strong pace playing to his strengths, it would be folly to underestimate him here, especially after the third Lightning Spear’s subsequent Sussex Stakes-winning exploits at Goodwood.
Recoletos wasn't disgraced in seventh behind Accident Agent at Royal Ascot, though his effort was a bit of a damp squib, at no stage threatening after being edgy and sweating beforehand. He had previously won the Prix du Muguet at Saint-Cloud and Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp (by one and three quarter lengths from Almodovar) in May and remains capable of better if more settled back on home soil at a course with more class than razzamatazz, though it’s worth noting that he was also well below form on his sole visit here.
In contrast, With You is clearly at home at this seaside venue. A winner here as a two-year-old, she duly built on two excellent runs over further behind Laurens (Prix Saint-Alary and Prix de Diane) when providing her trainer Freddy Head with a record-equalling fifth win in the Prix Rothschild over C&D last month. She clearly has more on her plate here - tasked with beating colts, older horses and the best miler in training - for the first time, but her prominent style of racing could lend her an advantage once more, and she looks a legitimate danger to Alpha Centauri with more improvement to come.
Similar comments apply to Intellogent. A son of the slow-burning sire Intello, out of a half-sister to Oaks d'Italia winner Night of Magic and the dam of Deutsches Derby winner Nutan, it’s no real surprise that Intellogent’s career has been one of steady progression. He ran well when a close fourth of 16 to Study of Man in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly and improved again when winning the Prix Jean Prat over C&D (by a short neck from Cascadian) last time.
Cascadian is bred to stay further than this trip, but is very much on the right path and his previous beating of Tigre du Terre at Maisons-Laffitte is working out well. As well as Cascadian, Andre Fabre also saddles last year’s fourth Trais Fluors, but his form this season leaves him with plenty to find.
The older French horses Zalamea and Noor Al Hawa both look up against it, whilst the field is completed by the Ken Condon-trained pair Success Days and Romanised. The latter, winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas (by two and a quarter lengths from subsequent July Cup winner U S Navy Flag), is the most interesting, though he will need to bounce back from a modest effort behind Without Parole in the St James’s Palace Stakes last time, where he was always on the back foot after another slow start.
The hugely impressive Alpha Centauri is clear on weight-adjusted Timeform ratings, and deservedly heads the betting. She’s only disappointed twice, but both were on testing ground after significant absences, and she should be spot on after a month off on this good ground. However, she’s taking on colts for the first time and there could be some value in an each-way bet on Intellogent at around 9/1. He has a high cruising speed and picked up well when beating Cascadian in the Prix Jean Prat, a race in which he may not have been favoured by racing down the middle late on, and is the sort to improve again here.
Back Intellogent each-way in Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois at 9/1