The French look to have a good crop of three-year-old fillies this year, and the pick of the bunch as things stand is Avenir Certain who took her unbeaten start to four when winning the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) at Longchamp last time. Avenir Certain remains open to further improvement and would have ranked highly on the shortlist for this, but she, along with Miss France - who won the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket - and the unexposed Bawina, will run in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly on Sunday.
It could, therefore, be left to Pouliches runner-up Veda to head up the French challenge in the Coronation Stakes. A repeat of the effort Veda produced at Longchamp, where she fared especially well in light of an unfavourable draw, would see her go close, but she subsequently failed to meet expectations when beaten at odds on in a Group 2 at Chantilly, seemingly undone by faster underfoot conditions, and needs to bounce back.
One filly who does arrive at the top of her game is dual-Guineas runner-up Lightning Thunder. Lightning Thunder got to within a neck of beating Miss France in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, leaving the impression that she should have won having made her challenge from further back than the winner in what wasn't a truly-run race. Lightning Thunder further enhanced her likeable profile by finishing runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas under markedly different ground conditions, and Olly Stevens' filly looks sure to give her running once again.
One place behind Lightning Thunder at Newmarket was Godolphin's Ihtimal, and she did well under the circumstances (left lot to do/forced very wide) when four and a half lengths fifth in the Oaks last time. Though catching the eye in with her strong late finish off a steady pace, she actually only ran to a similar level as at Newmarket, and she may struggle to reverse the form with Lightning Thunder.
Aidan O'Brien won the Coronation Stakes with Sophisticat in 2002 and Lillie Langtry in 2010, but his six entries this year all have questions to answer: Irish 1000 Guineas winner Marvellous needs to put a disappointing run (admittedly one she had a few possible excuses for) in the Oaks behind her; Bracelet and Tapestry finished at the tail of the field in the 1000 Guineas on their latest starts; and none of Beyond Brilliance, Palace and Wonderfully look good enough.
Euro Charline improved on her two Wolverhampton wins when a close second to Sandiva in the Nell Gwyn at Newmarket on her return, but she was beaten on merit when a creditable fifth in the Guineas there since. Other Guineas also-rans with the Coronation Stakes as a possible target are: Majeyda (sixth), Rizeena (seventh), Sandiva (ninth) and Lucky Kristale (sixteenth), the last three named all still to prove their stamina over a mile.
My Titania - who became Sea The Stars' first Group race winner as a sire when successful in the Group 3 C. L. Weld Park Stakes as a juvenile - missed both the 1000 Guineas (dirty scope) and the Irish 1000 Guineas (soft ground), which isn't the ideal preparation for this race, but she should not be overlooked. My Titania improved in chunks last term, her season culminating with a Group 3 success at the Curragh, her strong-travelling style and sharp turn of foot marking her down as a potential top-class miler. Representing the John Oxx yard that won this race in 1995 with Ridgewood Pearl, My Titania appeals as the best long-term prospect, though she faces no easy task turning over some smart, race-fit rivals on her seasonal reappearance.
Others worth a positive mention are the German-trained Meerjungfrau, who extended her unbeaten record to three when winning a Group 3 over a mile at Cologne on her return in April with a bit in hand, and the US raider Rosalind, who dug deep under pressure to win a Grade 1 on polytrack on her penultimate start but needs to prove as good back on grass (did break her maiden on the surface).
With Avenir Certain, Bawina and Miss France all set to contest the Prix de Diane, this doesn't look like the strongest of renewals, and it affords Lightning Thunder with a good opportunity to register a first top-level success. Lightning Thunder has been knocking on the door so far this season and she can gain her reward for a couple of excellent efforts in classics. My Titania may prove her biggest danger.
Back Lightning Thunder to win the Coronation Stakes