Timeform's John Ingles previews Sunday's Prix Ganay at Longchamp and recommends a bet...
"...ended his three-year-old campaign instead in the Champion Stakes in which he put up a performance worthy of the race’s name."
Timeform on Cracksman
After two years at Saint-Cloud the Prix Ganay returns to its traditional home of Longchamp - or ParisLongchamp - as it's now become as part of the track's €140 million redevelopment. The course staged its first racing since Arc day 2015 three weeks ago but this Sunday marks the official reopening with prize money for the day's big race, run as the 'Prix Ganay - Prix de L'Inauguration de ParisLongchamp', boosted to €600,000 for the special occasion.
The 2015 Arc was won by the John Gosden-trained Golden Horn ridden by Frankie Dettori in the colours of Anthony Oppenheimer and the same connections are represented on Sunday by Cracksman, Timeform's best middle-distance colt in Europe in 2017 and the joint-highest rated three-year-old with the sprinter Battaash. Despite winning an Arc trial, the Prix Niel, Cracksman left the Arc to stable-companion Enable and ended his three-year-old campaign instead in the Champion Stakes in which he put up a performance worthy of the race's name, staying on strongly in the soft ground to win by seven lengths from Poet's Word and Highland Reel.
'He's stronger [this year], much stronger' said Gosden, speaking after Cracksman pleased his trainer in a gallop at Newmarket's Craven meeting last week. 'To me he's like a twenty-four-year-old, a bit different to the young adolescent that was racing last year.'
A meeting with Enable could come back at Longchamp in the Arc later in the year, if not sooner in the King George at Ascot, but among Cracksman's rivals on Sunday is Cloth of Stars who chased home Enable at Chantilly. That was a clear career-best from Cloth of Stars whom Andre Fabre will no doubt again be aiming to bring him to a peak again in October. He has the benefit of a couple of races under his belt already this year, though a very steady pace was against him when third to Hawkbill and Poet's Word in the Dubai Sheema Classic last time. His headstrong tendencies are clearly not entirely a thing of the past, but the provision of a pacemaker here in Wren's Day to set a good gallop will hopefully help him settle much better.
Aidan O'Brien won the Ganay with the top-class colts Dylan Thomas and Duke of Marmalade in 2007 and 2008 and returns with last year's 1000 Guineas and Oaks runner-up Rhododendron. She ended last season back in good form, having bled badly in the Prix de Diane during the summer, returning to Chantilly to win the Prix de l'Opera at Chantilly before finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. While she has a consistent record against her own sex, her smart form leaves her with something to find against a couple of top-class rivals on her first start against males.
The forecast good ground won't have been well received by connections of the other British-trained entry Air Pilot who until now has been revelling in the heavy ground that has prevailed in France for much of the spring. He completed the same double as Cloth of Stars did prior to last year's Ganay, winning the Prix Exbury at Saint-Cloud in driving snow and having optimum underfoot conditions again in the Prix d'Harcourt when Longchamp reopened three weeks ago. Cirrus des Aigles won this as a nine-year-old, but even with fitness on his side and five-time race winner Christopher Soumillon in the saddle, Air Pilot faces a stiff task to emulate him made all the harder by the ground drying out.
Andre Fabre's other runner Finche finished a creditable sixth on his return behind Air Pilot three weeks ago and should benefit from that run. Another son of Frankel like Cracksman, he could well do better this year after just four starts as a three-year-old, though he has four and a half lengths to find with Cracksman on their meeting in the Prix Niel.
Germany's Wild Chief completes the field of seven. He finished fourth (with Air Pilot seventh) in the 2016 Ganay and is smart on his day but his limitations have been exposed in Group 1 company and he ended last year out of form.
Last year’s race-fit winner Cloth of Stars will be no push-over but this looks an excellent opportunity for Cracksman to get what could be a very exciting four-year-old campaign off to a flying start. Rhododendron and Finche look candidates for minor honours, while the ground has gone against in-form Air Pilot.
Win back Cracksman in Sunday's Prix Ganay at Longchamp