The last three Group Ones of the season are run at Saint-Cloud and Longchamp this weekend. Patrick Weaver previews the action in Paris...
"The Godolphin trainer should have an idea as to where he stands with La Barrosa but Normandy Bridge looks the better bet at 5/1."
Sky Sports Racing will be showing all the premium races in France this Saturday and Sunday and there are several British and Irish runners.
The two Group Ones on Saturday are both for two-year-olds: The Criterium International over a mile at 13:35 and the Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 10 furlongs at 14:50.
The betting for the first of the two races is dominated by horses trained at Newmarket and in Ireland.
The overnight favourite is Godolphin's La Barrosa, trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by James Doyle, though there is only a quarter of point difference between his price and Aidan O'Brien's Van Gogh - 5/2 on the Sportsbook.
While Van Gogh has been placed in three Group races, and only won a maiden, La Barrosa made it two from two over seven furlongs when taking the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket. If you go with Van Gogh, you are on a proven stayer. Go with La Barrosa and you are backing a seemingly classier colt that might not see out the extra furlong.
Simon and Ed Crisford run Jadoomi, seven-length winner of a conditions race over a mile at Longchamp on Arc day. He forged clear of 16 rivals on going that was at least as heavy that day as it is at Saint-Cloud. Mickael Barzalona is in the saddle again and you would have to say he has a lot going for him. This is quite a step up in class, though, which is why he is an each-way price.
The handicapper rates the only course-and-distance scorer in the field, Normandy Bridge, best of those that have raced in France. That success came in the Group 3 Prix Thomas Bryon Jockey Club de Turquie last month, when he had an Appleby-trained favourite Naval Crown the best part of five lengths behind. That should give the Godolphin trainer an idea as to where he stands with La Barrosa but Normandy Bridge looks the better bet to me at 5/1.
Policy Of Truth kept on strongly to win the Group 3 Prix des Chenes on good going over a mile at Longchamp. Whether or not he will cope with going as soft as it is at Saint-Cloud, we shall see. He certainly gives 100 per cent and he has improved with each run.
Darkness is a Listed winner that finished behind Naval Crown over seven in a Group 3 at Longchamp. On the face of it, he has a stiff task if he is to beat my pick, Normandy Bridge.
Makaloun should see off challengers
The home team also have a good chance of taking the Criterium de Saint-Cloud at 14:50.
They have the top two in the market with the Group 1 winner Tiger Tanaka and Makaloun who has won all his four starts in weaker company.
I tend to side with past Gr1 winners in Gr1 races but there was a lot to like with the way Makaloun won his recent Gr3 at Chantilly. He made all over nine furlongs and wasn't tiring at the end. Tiger Tanaka won't be a pushover but 10 furlongs is a big ask for juvenile fillies and she might not be able to get past her market rival.
Aidan O'Brien has won this with Fame And Glory and Recital but drawn a blank since 2010. His Bolshoi Ballet only won a maiden at Leopardstown but his trainer has always thought a lot of him, the reason why he started him off at Newmarket last month. Maybe O'Brien was already thinking of his colt as a Guineas candidate?
Mark Johnston's Gear Up won a Group 2 at the York Ebor meeting before coming fourth in the Royal Lodge. He has each-way appeal at 7/1, but is not my idea of the winner.
Bellocio got his head in front of Aleas near the line at Salisbury to make a winning debut. The runner-up scored at Newbury yesterday to frank the form but Bellocio would need to come on a lot to make an impact in this grade.
Barzalona booked for other two UK runners
There are three more Group races at Saint-Cloud, two of which have an English-trained runner ridden by Mickael Barzalona.
Initially, I found it hard to make a case for Ralph Beckett's Feliciana De Vega in the Prix de Flore at 13:00. However, her only run in the last 12 months was against colts in the Group 1 Sun Chariot at Newmarket and she ran well in defeat.
She closed out last season with a Gr3 win on soft over nine furlongs, and with her stable having three winners on Friday Feliciana De Vega has a better chance than I'd thought. The distance of 10 and a half furlongs is further than she has gone, but she is worth considering.
Nine line up for the Prix Belle de Nuit at 16:00, a Group 3 for three-year-old fillies over a mile and six. Roger Varian's Believe In Love is the form pick on her third in the fillies' Leger at Donny, the Group 2 Park Hill.
She had a tough race, leading 100 yards from home only to be caught by Pista and Vivionn, but has had this race as her target for a while and should beat the home contingent.
Only Princess Zoe's best will do
The action moves on to Longchamp on Sunday with a cracking renewal of the Prix Royal-Oak at 14:50.
My tip - Princess Zoe at 4/5 - won't appeal to those looking for a value bet, but Tony Mullins' mare is at the top of her game.
Back in June she was beaten off a mark of 64, but she has since won three handicaps, a Listed and the Group 1 Prix du Cadran at Longchamp this month. She goes on heavy and ticks all the boxes you would want ticked.
Next in the betting at 6/4 is Valia who won a Group 2 on the same card but over a similar trip to the Royal-Oak rather than the two and a half miles of the Cadran. Three-year-olds have won four of the last eight runnings, so I wouldn't rule her out on that score. It is just that Princess Zoe appeals more, albeit marginally given she has to concede 8lb to Christophe Soumillon's mount.
Holdthasigreen was third in 2017, won the Royal-Oak in 2018 and came third last year. In addition, he was a close third in his prep run for this at Saint-Cloud last month, just behind Mister Nino. Holdthasigreen is several points shorter than his adversary - they are 10/1 and 16/1 - but that is understandable as this has always been Holdthasisgreen's target, whereas the race is more of an afterthought for Mister Nino.
Mark Johnston's Subjectivist steps up in distance after failing to make all in the St Leger. This is his first stab at nearly two miles, and he will do well to boss horses proven at the trip.
Baron Samedi goes for fifth win in a row
Tony Mullins is not the only Irish trainer that has turned water into wine this year.
Joseph O'Brien's Baron Samedi ended last year on a rating of 65 and after handicap successes at Cork, Down Royal, Navan and Listowel following his being gelded he is now on a mark of 97.
He contests his first Group race - the Prix du Conseil de Paris at 13:00 - and would have an each-way chance.
Back Normandy Bridge Each-Way in the 13:35 at Saint-Cloud on Saturday at 5/1
Back Mackaloun in the 14:50 at Saint-Cloud on Saturday at 5/2
Back Princess Zoe in the 14:50 at Longchamp on Sunday at 4/5