Another Sunday in France and another five Group races, headed by the Prix du Moulin. Patrick Weaver previews the action at Longchamp...
"Called To The Bar's record at Longchamp in the last two years (13112) tells you how much he likes the track but he does need everything to go right for him to win."
This weekend's renewal of the Group 1 Prix du Moulin at 15:25 brings together the form of all the major mile races this year.
The winners of the French and Irish 2,000 Guineas, the third in the Newmarket colts' Classic, the winner of the Queen Anne Stakes, the third in the Sussex Stakes - all are present. Top miler Palace Pier hasn't come over but otherwise, the quality is top-notch.
Circus Maximus seeks back-to-back Moulin wins
The favourite is Pinatubo who is unbeaten over six and seven furlongs but has yet to win over eight. You may want to give him another chance at 13/8 (from 11/8) but he isn't for me.
The placed horses in the Sussex, Circus Maximus and Siskin, meet again. Ryan Moore's mount was a half a length clear of the Irish 2,000 winner, yet a day ago he was a point longer for this race. I couldn't see why, and it is no surprise they are both now around 9/2.
Circus Maximus won the Moulin 12 months ago - albeit by only a nose from Romanised who he had hampered in the closing stages.
Circus Maximus was last seen finishing third to Palace Pier and Alpine Star at Deauville, where Persian King and Romanised never got into the race. That pair may have found the going too heavy that day, in which case they are worth another chance which I'm not giving them.
The French 2,000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum drops back to a mile after good efforts in defeat in the French Derby and a Group 2. He has won four out of five over a mile but his form doesn't quite match up to the others in the line-up.
It's Circus Maximus for me, as I think he can master Pinatubo in the closing stages.
Naval makes Group race debut ahead of Dewhurst date
The Prix La Rochette at 12:25 kicks off the card. It is a Group 3 for two-year-olds over seven furlongs and provides a natural stepping stone for York winner Naval Crown ahead of the Darley Dewhurst at Newmarket next month.
James Doyle's mount put the Convivial Stakes to bed at the two-pole at the recent Ebor meeting, drawing right away from some decent maidens, including Dingle who won at Kempton yesterday. Naval Crown is only rated 96 but Charlie Appleby hopes he will be competitive at the top level, and will be disappointed if he doesn't win.
The son of Dubawi had been beaten on his two previous starts, though, and faces a far stiffer task than at York. His five rivals have won eight races between them
Sealiway is officially rated 101 after his Listed win at Vichy where his winning margin of five lengths was enabled by getting to the stands' rail and the fastest strip of ground first. He was re-rated by 6lb for that run taking him past Go Athletico who had got first run on him when finishing over a length ahead of him in a Listed over today's course and distance.
The pair have the best form of the home team; Dahiya, Darkness and Magic Sword having kept far weaker company.
At the odds, I suggest
Hurricane force to be reckoned with
Hurricane Dream has come a long way in a short space of time. Back in May, he won a conditions race at Le Lion-D'Angers, since when he has won at Chantilly, been unlucky in running in the French Derby and beaten Dawn Intello a short head in a Listed on heavy at Deauville.
The pair were 11/4 co-favourites of three with Grocer Jack for the Group 3 Prix de Prince d'Orange at 16:00 but Hurricane Dream has been backed to the exclusion of the others and is 7-4. Dawn Intello is 10/3 and Grocer Jack out to 15/2.
The La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte at 14:50 features last year's winner of the race, Villa Rosa. That was staged at the track of the same name that has now closed, and the mare is not nearly as good at Longchamp. The one runner whose form is on an upward curve is the overnight favourite Dariyma.
Christophe Soumillon's mount was fourth in the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville in August and there is nothing else in the line-up that can match that.
Bar can complete Prix Gladiateur treble
Called To The Bar won the last two runnings of the Prix Gladiateur at 16:35 and he should prove a tough nut to crack again. His record at Longchamp in the last two years (13112) tells you how much he likes the track but he does need everything to go right for him to win. All too often he meets trouble in the course of his steady run to the line and he can't get going again.
The Prix Vicomtesse Vigier in June was an example. There's no doubt he would have gone past the third, Get Shirty but he did not get out in time and had to settle for fourth. Arguably he could have passed San Huberto and Call The Wind, too, but time ran out. Get Shirty has since won a Listed at Deauville but he may not be up to winning in this league.
Windstoss is a Group 1 winner in Germany that has only had the one run in France. That was when third to Call The Wind and Ashrun at Deauville last month. It is simplistic to use that one run as a yardstick, but as the second is the equal of Get Shirty, you can conclude that back here at Longchamp there is a good case for Called To The Bar being favourite, if not at 11/10 which seems a bit short.
While Windstoss appeals for the forecast, with just seven runners I won't be backing him each-way at his overnight odds of 7/1.