It's all about the Guineas at Deauville. Patrick Weaver goes in search of the winners of the two Classics and the Prix de Nanterre...
"If you are not in it you can't win it, but this trio would be out of place in Listed company, let alone a Group One."
The first two Classics of the Flat season return to the idyllic Normandy track, which staged the 2016 and 2017 runnings while Longchamp was closed for redevelopment.
The chances are that the 2,000 Guineas at 14:50 will go to Andre Fabre for the third time in six years. He won it in 2015 and 2019 and has three of the first five in the betting. The trainers that won the race in the intervening years - Aidan O'Brien and Jean-Claude Rouget - are not represented.
The champion trainer has the 7/4 favourite, Victor Ludorum, who ran a lifeless sort of race in his trial. He did not pick up at all under pressure, coming third to The Summit and Ecrivain. In making Victor Ludorum a short price to turn the form around, the market makers are taking into account Fabre's poor form immediately after racing resumed. However, Henri Pantall, trainer of The Summit, did not hit the ground running either. Barring his colt's Group 3 win nothing went right for him, either in Paris or the provinces.
In the Group 1 for two-year-olds over a mile at Longchamp on Arc day, Victor Ludorum caught Alson, who had tried to make all, 100 yards out and won by three parts of a length. Ecrivain was a neck back in fourth, Kenway was last of the seven runners.
Alson then won the Group 1 Criterium International back at Longchamp later that month by 20 lengths - but it didn't take much winning, there was only Armory of O'Brien's to beat! Alson was based in Germany at the time, but has been sent to Fabre at Chantilly in the hope that the master trainer can improve him.
Fabre's third runner is Arapaho, a colt that Coolmore acquired privately after he won a seven-furlong maiden for unraced colts by three lengths at Saint-Cloud last June. He went off odds-on for his next two starts at Deauville but was put in his place by Happy Bere in the second of them and the winner was two lengths behind Ecrivain when that colt won his next start at Longchamp.
With prize money only down to fifth, the owners of Shinning Ocean, Celestin and Reshabar must have money to burn. Sure, if you are not in it you can't win it, but this trio would be out of place in Listed company, let alone a Group One.
Tropbeau the form pick but Simeen is improving fast
The Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at 15:25 is France's 1,000 Guineas.
The Group 3 trial at Longchamp was won by the favourite Tropbeau in workmanlike fashion rather than impressively. She took an age to get her head in front but passed Dream And Do half a furlong from home with stablemate Tickle Me Green keeping on well to be third. Tropbeau is a worthy favourite but Fabre's record in the race is not great. He last won it in 2011.
Jean-Claude Rouget won it three years running from 2014 to 2016, and thinks Simeen will give him his fourth recent success in the fillies' Classic.
Don't be put off by the fact that the Aga Khan's filly has yet to run in a Listed or Group race. Two of Rouget's 1,000 Guineas winners had not - La Cressonniere and Avenir Certain - and they went on to win the French Oaks afterwards. You would not back Simeen on form but there are several Group winners in her immediate pedigree and her trainer's record in the race is second to none.
Marieta could not get within touching distance of Tropbeau in the Shadwell Prix du Calvados over seven furlongs on soft here at Deauville last August. She then finished second in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac over a mile on very soft on Arc day. Her heart is in the right place and at 15/2 she has each-way appeal.
Outsiders impossible to fancy
The remaining seven of the 12 runners are 16/1 and up in our Sportsbook. Emoji was runner-up in a recent Group Three at Longchamp, the form of which does not amount to much. Speak Of The Devil won a mile maiden on the round course here on heavy. You certainly wouldn't touch her after her latest second to Shinning Ocean in a conditions race, as that exposed her limitations.
Mageva twice finished behind Dream And Do and Yomogi at Maisons-Laffitte last October. My Love's Passion was beaten less than a length when second to Simon Crisford's A'Ali in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin over five and a half furlongs here last August but she has not been the same since.
Desobeissance won a maiden over course and distance here two weeks back. She is so far out of her depth that she will do well not to finish last. She would be better off contesting claimers than running down the field in a Classic.
Dawn to surprise Vienne
Immediately after the Guineas at 16:00, there is the 10-furlong Prix de Nanterre, which is worth a look for betting purposes.
Vienne has improved with each of her five races. It took her four maidens to get off the mark, coming home three lengths clear of Gemcutter at Compiegne in October. She started the current campaign with a second to Irska at Saint-Cloud over a similar trip to today's and she is the best of the fillies in the line-up.
That does not make her the best bet, though, as Dawn Intello ran third in the faster of the two races over the trip that afternoon at Saint-Cloud. His run behind Port Guillaume and Gold Trip was at least the equal of Vienne's second half an hour later.
Salesman was a creditable third in a fast-run maiden over 11 furlongs at Lyon Parilly this month. Hellenistique was an unplaced 2/1 favourite on the same card when burdened with my selection, and needs to buck his ideas up to be placed in this company.