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Prix d'Ispahan Preview: Cirrus to prevail in fascinating clash
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Prix d'Ispahan Preview: Cirrus to prevail in fascinating clash

John Ingles previews Sunday's Prix d'Ispahan, a race notable for the clash between top-notch duo Cirrus des Aigles and Solow.

Geldings are barred from contesting some of France’s Group 1 races, notably the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but thankfully the Prix d’Ispahan isn’t one of them because three geldings figure among the five entries for Sunday’s Group 1 at Longchamp.

It’s one of the great injustices in racing that Cirrus des Aigles is ineligible to run in the Arc – it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have gone close to winning it at least once over the years – but his record now is such that the race needs him more than he needs the race. When he won Longchamp’s Prix Ganay last month it was his seventh Group 1 victory and his career record now stands at twenty-two wins (twelve of them at Longchamp), with total earnings of more than six million pounds.

Until this season, Cirrus des Aigles had never won first time out, so it was particularly to his credit that he beat a race-fit and high-class rival in Al Kazeem to win the Ganay for a third time at the age of nine. Cirrus des Aigles will be bidding to win his second Prix d’Ispahan as last year he followed up his Ganay victory in this race before going on to win the Coronation Cup, and he could head to Epsom again next month depending on how he fares on Sunday.

Goldikova was the last dual winner of the Prix d’Ispahan and beat none other than Cirrus des Aigles himself, by a neck, when gaining her second win in the race in 2011. Her connections will be hoping to repeat the trick with Solow who provides the main opposition to Cirrus des Aigles. For a horse who has won eight of his last nine starts for Freddy Head, Solow had kept a fairly low profile for much of that time, though was impressive when gaining his first group win in the Prix Quincey at Deauville last summer and followed up in the Prix Daniel Wildenstein at the Arc meeting. However, it was when forging clear to beat The Grey Gatsby by more than four lengths in the Dubai Turf in March that he announced himself more widely as a high-class performer.

Cirrus des Aigles and Solow are hard to split on form but this looks Solow’s stiffest task yet with Cirrus des Aigles showing little sign of the years catching up with him. After almost two months off the track, this also represents something of a prep race for Solow ahead of a more major target at Royal Ascot, but if he does come out on top on Sunday it will certainly add spice to what already looks a fascinating clash between him and Hong Kong’s top-class miler Able Friend in the Queen Anne Stakes.

The third gelding in the line-up is the four-year-old Gailo Chop who is making his reappearance and himself has an impressive strike rate of six wins from nine starts. His only defeat last season came when sent to contest a Grade 1 in America but he resumed his progress back in France when winning the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville last August, having John Gosden’s recent Gordon Richards Stakes winner Western Hymn back in fourth. Gailo Chop faces a stiff task against the big two after an absence (a setback ruled him out of a return in the Ganay) but, often a front runner, his presence may at least ensure that Cirrus des Aigles won’t have to make his own running this time.

The two mares who complete the line-up also look up against it. Pollyana was a never-dangerous third behind Cirrus des Aigles in this twelve months ago and made little impression behind him again when fifth in the Ganay last time, while Sparkling Beam is consistent but needs to step up a good deal on her narrow defeat in a Group 3 against other fillies and mares at Chantilly last month.


Back Cirrus des Aigles in the Prix d’Ispahan

Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:

141         Cirrus des Aigles

140         Solow

131         Gailo Chop

130         Pollyana

127         Sparkling Beam

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