Ahead of the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Longchamp on Sunday, Keith Melrose analyses the races and puts forward his tips...
Muhaarar beat Guineas disappointment Estidhkaar in the Greenham, though that form becomes harder to knock when you consider how readily the pair left behind Ivawood, who finished third at Newmarket
The Poule d'Essai des Poulains is a rare beast, in that it actually benefits from an unwieldy name. In Britain we tend to settle for the more convenient moniker of 'French 2000 Guineas', when in truth that's a comparison that flatters the Poulains. This decade so far, the average performance of the Poulains winner has been the best part of a stone behind that of the 2000 Guineas. Even allowing for a couple of outstanding Guineas winners in recent years, that's emphatic.
Among the home-trained contingent in this year's Poulains, which have been responsible for the last seven winners since Astronomer Royal took the race for Aidan O'Brien in 2007, the form is barely of a smart standard. In fact, the only French-trained runner over the 110-rated line (the cut-off for what Timeform describes as 'smart') is Make Believe.
Make Believe is from the first crop of 2000 Guineas winner Makfi and comes here via one of the major trials for this race, the Prix Djebel. That day he came off second-best to Ride Like The Wind, who finished mid-field in the Guineas and probably failed to stay a stiff mile. Make Believe should have no such problems and, in accordance with the betting, he probably represents France's main hope.
Second on that list could well be Karar, who has made big strides in recent weeks. He won a maiden in March and less than a month later served it up to Territories over this C&D, admittedly having enjoyed the run of the race. Even so, giving the subsequent Guineas runner-up a race puts him firmly in the picture here, while there's the added bonus of a rejuvenated Frankie Dettori choosing him over Horris Hill winner Smaih.
On form, a couple of British-trained colts are significantly ahead and they're both available at attractive odds. It's easier to see why Maftool has been ignored, his form coming on Meydan's dirt which makes it far from guaranteed to transfer to turf. Muhaarar at double-figure odds is harder to let slide. He beat Guineas disappointment Estidhkaar in the Greenham, though that form becomes harder to knock when you consider how readily the pair left behind Ivawood, who finished third at Newmarket. Muhaarar is well worth having onside if 10/1+ is available.
Current favourite Highland Reel, who comes from the yard that last took the Poulains out of France, has 10 lb to find on Muhaarar, albeit without having had a chance to strut his stuff at three. He was last seen when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, from the well-regarded but subsequently disappointing Tupi. Though his promise is undoubted, there are too many unknowns, plus his yard's history of sending one of the B team to Longchamp, against Highland Reel to be backing him at short of 4/1.
In total contrast to the Poulains, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches is arguably a stronger race than its Newmarket counterpart, the 1000 Guineas, at least on Timeform ratings. It generally takes a performance near 120 to win the Pouliches, whereas Legatissimo last week was a rare Guineas winner to reach that figure.
This year's renewal contains a warm favourite in Ervedya, though it's a deeper race than that might suggest. Ervedya simply has some tremendous form: up with The Wow Signal and Hootenanny at Deauville, then second to Found in the Marcel Boussac before winning a good renewal of the Prix Imprudence. She was impressive in that win, clocking at faster time than the Djebel on the same day. She could be a very good filly, but so could a couple of others in this race.
The market puts Mexican Gold at the top of that pile. She's taken a quieter route to this race, winning a maiden at two and a Group 3 this year, but her connections make a big noise where she doesn't. Trainer André Fabre has won this race three times and she comes from the family of Zafonic and Zamindar.
One to watch at slightly longer odds could be Sainte Amarante, who has come a long way in a short time. Successful on her second try in maidens at Deauville over the winter, she picked up a listed race at Saint-Cloud in March, sweeping away the field to win by three lengths. The time of that race was perhaps below what you'd expect, but the rate of progress is the salient point with Sainte Amarante and she could get into the realm of Pouliches-winning standard if she carries on that way.
Back Muhaarar and Karar in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains