As England braces itself for a mammoth week of equine brilliance on arguably the world’s greatest stage at Royal Ascot next week, France hosts the highest profile meeting this weekend featuring Prix De Diane.
Chantilly is the venue for this Group One classic, which was first run in 1843. This race has been a stomping ground for some fantastic fillies over the years with Zarkava and Treve both winners in recent times.
The home guard is going to have to fend off a strong raiding party if they want to keep the prize on French soil. Freddy Head who has yet to win the Prix De Diane will be hoping he can break his duck this year with the strongly fancied With You. As a two-year-old the daughter of Dansili was undefeated in both her starts and a very promising second in the Group One Prix Saint-Alary on seasonal debut will have left her cherry ripe for this.
Surprisingly, victory in this classic has also evaded the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien and he will be looking to remedy this with one of his regally bred fillies. The most likely candidate to make the breakthrough is Happily.
The daughter of Galileo was last season’s champion two-year-old filly with victories in the Group One Moyglare Stakes at the Curragh and the Grand Criterium at Chantilly making her a deserving winner of this accolade.
She was sent off favourite for both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas but had to settle for third on both occasions. She didn’t lose much on defeat on either start and she surely holds leading claims of giving Aidan a first Prix De Diane.
However, both fillies have to reverse recent form with Laurens, Happily will have to overturn a half-length defeat from the English 1000 Guineas and With You has to reverse the Prix Saint-Alary form. Laurens who is a daughter of Siyouni hasn’t been out of the first two in six starts. There is no real reason she won’t uphold the form with her rivals and add another Group One to her name.
The other obvious contender is the unexposed Shahnaza who could be anything although she will have to improve on the material form she’s shown to figure in this company.
Selection: Laurens Outsider: Musis Amica
On the home front this Saturday there’s quality action to look forward to at York, Sandown and Chester. There is listed action to look forward to from Sandown and York, the Scurry Stakes will be fast and furious where Charlie Appleby’s classy Sound And Silence looks a three-year-old that should be in everyone’s notebook.
The Exceed And Excell colt has come up well short on both attempts this season but it’s too early to write off last year’s Windsor Castle winner. The Godolphin colt is top weight for a reason and his class can shine through here.
The biggest competition is likely to come from Clive Cox’s Koditime who ran in some top races last season including a midfield finish in the Norfolk. Having won first time out this season, he only went down by a head at Windsor and looks sure to give a good account of himself.
Others to note include Spoof, Haddaf and Youkan.
Selection: Sound And Silence Outsider Haddaf
At York, the feature race is the Grand Cup Stakes which is a listed event ran over 1m 6f for four years olds upwards. It has attracted a quality field of stayers from some leading yards on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The betting market would suggest that this is a two-horse race, with both Marmelo and Weekender vying for favouritism. They share a rating of 114 but Marmelo’s form looks much stronger on the face of it. Weekender who is a son of Frankel has never won a group or listed race but in fairness, he has only had eight career starts.
On the other hand, Marmelo won two group races last year and ended the season with a more than credible top ten finish in the race that stops the nation, the Melbourne Cup. Hughie Morrison’s stable star ran the smart Vazirabad to a neck in a Group Two at Longchamp on seasonal debut.
This form looks head and shoulders above anything else on offer and it’s hard to look past Marmelo. Of the remainder Time To Study needs the addition of first-time blinkers to spark some improvement. Duretto, Duke Of Bronte and the veteran Clever Cookie all hold claims.
In Ireland, this Sunday Cork hosts the Munster Oaks which is a Group Three contest ran over 1m 4f and as is the case with most races, the natural starting point is Aidan O’Brien. The master of Ballydoyle has won three of the last four renewals of this contest.
Willie McCreery trains top weight Bloomfield who has won both her starts this season which have come in Listed company, in fact, she has never been out of the first two in five career starts. The main concern is that she has never raced on ground quicker than yielding. If she handles the forecasted Good to Firm underfoot conditions the daughter of Teofilo should emerge victorious even though she is giving weight to all her rivals.
Jim Bolger’s Glamorous Approach has been comprehensively beaten by Bloomfield on both starts this year and there is no real reason that Bloomfield won’t uphold the form here. Dermot Weld seems to have a nice filly on his hands in the form of Jaega who was a winner on debut and came up just short in a Group Three on her second start. This well-related filly looks a very nice type.
Other to note in the race include the Aidan O’Brien trained Flattering, Easter Lilly and Sizzling.
Selection: Bloomfield Outsider: Jaega