The 2000 and 1000 Guineas top the bill at Longchamp today. Patrick Weaver previews the Classics and highlights the best bets...
"It is true Tropbeau has run two poor races by her standard at Saint-Cloud this spring but Longchamp brings out the best in her. Her last success was last May over a mile here and this is an easier race than that."
The Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains at 14:50 has rarely been the next stop for a Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner but Jim Bolger has never done things by the book.
The much-revered Irish trainer is very much his own man whose attention to detail is only matched by Aidan O'Brien, who learned the finer arts of training while at Bolger's soon after leaving school.
Irish favourites to bag colts' Classic
This afternoon their colts go head-to-head in the first colts' Classic of the year in France with Bolger's Newmarket winner Poetic Flare favourite ahead of O'Brien's St Mark's Basilica.
Poetic Flare was a surprise Guineas winner, going into the race on an official rating of 109 and coming out with a new mark of 118. The handicapper reckoned he improved 9lb on his previous form when toughing it out and beating Master Of The Seas and Lucky Vega a short head and a neck.
That was only two weeks ago, and most trainers would wait until Royal Ascot's St. James's Palace Stakes or the Irish 2,000 to run their Classic winner again.
Bolger wouldn't be running Poetic Flare, though, unless he felt his home-bred colt was up to the task. His son-in-law Kevin Manning is in the saddle as always, a big advantage as he has known him since his birth.
The only time Poetic Flare hasn't won was when nearer last than first in the Dewhurst at Newmarket last autumn, a race won by St Mark's Basilica.
That, too, was something of a surprise as Ryan Moore was on the better-fancied of O'Brien's runners, Wembley, which couldn't get to the winner.
Basilica yet to make his Mark this season
St Mark's Basilica hasn't had a run since whereas this will be Poetic Flare's third race of the year, having won a Guineas trial at Leopardstown prior to Newmarket.
In tipping Poetic Flare, I've taken into account that St Mark's Basilica will be ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal, a former champion jockey but no longer in France's Top 10. I don't have a problem with him ability-wise but he has not ridden his mount before and that - you would have thought - would be a disadvantage.
Adam McNamara rides Mehmento for Archie Watson. His odds of 10/1 look short for a colt that has won two races at Southwell by a wide margin before splitting Chindit and The Lir Jet in a Classic trial at Newbury. Mehmento has only raced over seven furlongs, so may not see out the mile in what is his stiffest task to date.
Andre Fabre has won the last two runnings with horses owned by Godolphin. Persian King (2019) and Victor Ludorum (2020) started favourite, though, whereas their runner here, Parchemin was a costly flop in his trial, coming in fifth behind Policy Of Truth, Sealiway, Summiter and Easter in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau over course and distance.
Of the five, Policy Of Truth and Sealiway make most appeal each-way, but they need to improve half a stone to prevent the Irish from taking the Classic.
Mother hard to oppose in the 1,000 Guineas
The 1,000 Guineas is up next - the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at 15:25. Here, too, we have two Irish runners at the head of the market.
Mother Earth comes on from Newmarket where Frankie Dettori gave her a confident ride to win the fillies' Classic. Ryan Moore again picked the wrong one, preferring Santa Barbara.
Dettori isn't on top today but Christophe Soumillon is a good man to have on your side round Longchamp - one of the best available to O'Brien.
Ken Condon's Miss Amulet didn't look anything special at Naas and Navan when she first hit the track last June. Her record since, though, is three wins and three places including a second in the Cheveley Park over six furlongs and a third in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, a neck behind Mother Earth.
The O'Brien filly stayed on the better of the two that day, taking second off Miss Amulet close home. It should be close again but Mother Earth has a fitness edge and a recent Group 1 win on her CV, so gets my vote.
Ralph Beckett's Lullaby Moon takes a big hike in class. She improved as the season progressed last year winning the William Hill 2yo Trophy at Redcar and a Group 3 at Chantilly in the autumn. It's her first stab at a mile but she looks out of her depth going into the race.
The filly with most appeal among the home team is Philomene. The daughter of Dubawi has taken two steps towards paying off the €1.6million Godolphin paid for her as a yearling. She won a maiden for unraced fillies over course and distance last September, and maintained her unbeaten record with a Group Three success over 10 furlongs at Saint-Cloud last month.
I'm not one for tipping horses in Classics that are dropping two furlongs - in theory they may get outpaced. There is no denying Philomene's chance, though, and she is certainly better than her stablemate See The Rose.
Kalahara a tentative tip for her sprint
The opening race - the Group 3 Prix de Saint-Georges at 12:23 - is one of a series of sprints contested by horses that seem to take turns in winning.
The eight older horses keep meeting each other, and don't win two in a row. Sestilio Jet beat Batwan and Ken Colt in 2019. Last May Batwan won, with Sistilio Jet, third, Ken Colt, fifth, and Tour De Paris sixth.
On the next occasion that they met - in the Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene at Deauville - Tour De Paris drew four lengths clear of Ken Colt and Sestilio Jet with Batwan, last.
Not many three-year-olds take part, as a rule, but there are five today - all fillies. Acapulco Gold is the highest rated of them but she has not raced this spring.
Isle Of May, Kalahara, Ideal Beauty and Hastalavistababy, who all contested the Prix Sigy at Chantilly last month, are close behind her and have a fitness edge.
If I had to back one each-way it would be Kalahara at his overnight price of 11/1 but there's not a lot between them.
Tropbeau can make her class tell
The Prix Maurice Zilber at 12:58 is more my sort of race. A nice fillies-only contest with some horses going up in class and others dropping down.
I'll go with Tropbeau, fourth in both last year's French 1,000 Guineas and the Prix de la Foret on Arc Day. It is true that she has run two poor races by her standard at Saint-Cloud this spring but Longchamp brings out the best in her. Her last success was in the Prix de la Grotte last May over a mile here and this is an easier race than that, on paper.
Irska is unpenalised for her Group 3 success at Deauville as it was back in August but the three Listed winners since September 1 - Queen Of Love, Alpen Rose and Speak Of The Devil all have a 3lb penalty.
Bamb appeals each-way despite stiff competition
The Prix de la Seine at 13:33 should go to Roman Bamb but there are a number of maiden winners that may give the form horse a fright.
Among them are the French Oaks and Arc entries Natsukashi and Burgarita.
Natsukashi was last turning out of the back straight on her debut at Chantilly but hit the front a furlong out and won by eight lengths. Her owner, the Barcelona forward and French international Antoine Griezmann, understandably has high hopes of this daughter of Motivator and hopes she will go on and win a Group One.
Burgarita's win over course and distance was less compelling but Andre Fabre thinks she will come on a lot for her debut success.
Roman Bamb moved up to a rating of 103 following a career-best third to Petricor and Sky Sister in the Listed Prix Finlande over nine furlongs here at Longchamp. She nearly beat them, too, going down by a short head and a head with Atalante five lengths back.
At 15/2, she is more than double the odds of Natsukashi and Burgarita, so will carry my money each-way.