The six and a half furlong Prix Maurice de Gheest attracts both top-quality sprinters and those seven-furlong horses who may have been finding their stamina stretched over a mile at the very top level. With 20 runners on Sunday, it’s also a very different challenge to the often small-field Group 1s that otherwise dominate the French calendar between the Prix de Diane in June and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.
British trainers have done well over the years, more so than the leading Irish handlers, with Aidan O’Brien’s sole win coming with King Charlemagne in 2001. There have been nine British-trained winners over the past 20 years, though Freddy Head’s three-time winners Marchand d’Or and Moonlight Cloud remain the only horses to land the prize on more than one occasion.
Both those horses won the race for the first time as a three-year-old, and Head has two members of the classic generation running for him on Sunday. Progressive at two (second in the Prix Marcel Boussac on her final start), Polydream was last of 14 in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp on her reappearance, but bounced back in style when beating her elders in the Prix du Palais-Royal last time by one and a quarter lengths from the previous year’s winner Inns of Court. Efaadah won a mile listed race at Longchamp in May and the Prix de la Porte Maillot at the same track (against older horses, by one and a quarter lengths from Inns of Court) in June. She was also a good third to Mission Impassible in the Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly in between, and commands plenty of respect at around 9/1.
#Galop #R3ParisLongchamp Efaadah (A. Lemaitre - F. Head) s'adjuge le Prix de la Porte Maillot (Groupe 3) sous le poids super léger de 52.5kg ! Elle devance les deux pensionnaires d'A. Fabre Inns Of Court et Jimmy Two Times. pic.twitter.com/C5AS631zL5— Equidia (@equidia) June 30, 2018
Other French-trained three-year-olds of note include the Poule d'Essai des Poulains fourth Wootton, who confirmed himself a smart colt when third to Without Parole in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. He might have done even better had he not found trouble in running, though it's very unlikely he'd have troubled the first two. He drops to shorter than a mile for the first time.
Coeur de Beaute won the Prix Imprudence here in April and was then a short-neck second in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp in May. She was below form when only sixth to Alpha Centauri in the Coronation Stakes last time, but that was the firmest ground she’d encountered and she should show her true colours here now returned to a softer surface/this venue (also second over five furlongs here last season).
There are five British/Irish-trained three-year-olds engaged, led by Sands of Mali. Last season’s Gimcrack winner won the Prix Sigy at Chantilly in April on his last trip abroad, before following up in the Sandy Lane Stakes (James Garfield fourth, Unfortunately seventh) at Haydock in May. He was a good second in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, but needs to bounce back from a rare poor effort when beating just one home in the July Cup at Newmarket last time.
The rapid U S Navy Flag makes all to give give Ryan Moore a first triumph in the Darley July Cup triumph at Newmarket. It's a fourth win in the big sprint for Aidan O’Brien. pic.twitter.com/7zvBgiydvr— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) July 14, 2018
Ryan Moore rides the July Cup third Fleet Review, as he did when the colt won a listed race at the Curragh (by a nose from the year-older Intelligence Cross) in June, while Unfortunately has gone off the boil since winning the Prix Morny here last August; a better run wouldn’t be a huge surprise, though, with a visor now swapped for cheekpieces (won his first two starts in the visor last season).
Perhaps of more interest, however, for those who like the July Cup form, is Brando. He was second (beaten a length and three quarters by U S Navy Flag) there, doing easily best of the quartet who raced on the stands rail. That was his third 120-rated performance of the season, having previously won the Abernant Stakes on his reappearance and been second to Harry Angel in the Duke of York Stakes, but that form is still slightly below the effort he produced when winning this race by half a length last season. Brando led home a 1-2-3-4 for British runners that day, securing his first Group 1 in the process, and a repeat of that form would make him hard to beat.
The Tin Man and Librisa Breeze are two other older British sprinters to respect. The former has eight career wins, including two Group 1s (2016 Champion Sprint Stakes and 2017 Diamond Jubilee Stakes) at Ascot, and he wasn’t far off his best when fourth – having met a bit of trouble in running – in the latest renewal of the Diamond Jubilee. This is his first start outside of England, though. Librisa Breeze won the latest Champion Sprint Stakes, but has been below form in two starts in 2018; this intermediate trip should suit ideally, but he has a bit to prove now.
The previously mentioned Inns of Court chased home two quality fillies (Polydream and Efaadah) on his first two starts this term, but showed further progress when winning the Group 3 Prix de Ris-Orangis at Maisons-Laffitte last time. He coped well with the drop back to six furlongs that day, and is another who should relish this trip. A course winner, he looks a leading contender.
Similar comments apply to fellow four-year-old colt City Light, who tops Timeform weight-adjusted ratings. A high-class performer who is only a whisker away from being unbeaten this year, he won a minor event at Chantilly and the All-Weather Sprint Championships at Lingfield in March, as well as the five-furlong Prix de Saint-Georges at Longchamp in May. He then progressed again when a short-head second to Merchant Navy in the Diamond Jubilee, missing the break but staying on and just failing. He has won at a mile, so this longer trip won’t inconvenience, but he’s yet to shine in three starts at the track (one on the all-weather).
A great race in prospect, though not one guaranteed to be run at a frenetic pace despite the large field. Some of the French runners could be reliant on several of the British contingent setting a decent gallop, with the exception of 9/1 shot Efaadah. She has been ridden fairly prominently on all three starts this season, including when beating Inns of Court at Longchamp, and could get first run on the likes of stablemate Polydream and last year's winner Brando.
Back Efaadah to win the Prix Maurice de Gheest at 9/1