Timeform's John Ingles takes a look at Sunday's Group 1 event at Saint-Cloud...
"The one who fits the bill is the four-year-old German colt Novellist whose best days could easily still be ahead of him..."
Not all the top horses in Europe have been in action at Royal Ascot this week, and there are still enough to go round to make Sunday's Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud a competitive contest.
In fact, Europe's highest-rated horse Cirrus des Aigles makes a delayed return in the Group 1 contest over a mile and a half, while his rivals include two others whose earnings have broken the million-euro barrier, namely Dunaden and Joshua Tree.
Whilst regularly attracting some of Europe's top middle-distance performers, this race has often proved a graveyard for favourites. Danedream was turned over at odds-on last year, while two more Arc winners, Bago and Hurricane Run, have been among those to suffer the same fate this century.
Cirrus des Aigles undeniably stands out on his best form and ran the race of his life when last seen in October, getting closer to Frankel than any other horse managed last season when beaten less than two lengths in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. However, a ligament strain ruled him out of a subsequent run in Hong Kong at the end of last year and his trainer reports that he'll need this first run back. An earlier setback caused Cirrus des Aigles to miss this race twelve months ago, while in 2011 he was beaten a neck by the filly Sarafina. Even without being at his best Cirrus des Aigles could still be capable of making a winning reappearance, but at the likely odds there are enough negatives to warrant taking him on.
Dunaden and Joshua Tree are similar types to each other, both tough globe-trotters for whom a mile and a half is a bare minimum, and they met last time in the Coronation Cup at Epsom when second and third respectively behind St Nicholas Abbey. That was the latest among a string of creditable efforts in defeat in Europe for Dunaden, while Joshua Tree - who has seven lengths to make up on Dunaden from that meeting - has yet to hit top form this season but could build further on that run, particularly as this is a track that can suit those ridden prominently. Their limitations are fully exposed, though, and both are vulnerable to an improving rival.
The one who fits the bill is the four-year-old German colt Novellist whose best days could easily still be ahead of him. He ended last season with a Group 1 win in Milan and shaped as though all set to do at least as well this year when making a winning reappearance in a Group 2 at Baden-Baden last month, giving 7 lb to a former Deutsches Derby winner, Waldpark. Pastorius, who beat Novellist half a length in last year's German Derby, has already won a Group 1 in France this year when successful in the Prix Ganay, and Novellist has every chance of doing the same on Sunday. The booking of Ryan Moore catches the eye as well.
Several smart fillies and mares complete the field, including Dalkala whose last run came at York when successful in the Middleton Stakes. They all have a bit to find, but most interesting among them is Pirika, runner-up in last year's Prix Vermeille. She looked unlucky not to win the Grand Prix de Chantilly last time when fourth in a blanket finish but if getting a more strongly-run race she's capable of putting in a big run from the rear to snatch a place.
Back Novellist in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud
Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:
147 Cirrus des Aigles
131 Joshua Tree