A month of top-class racing at Deauville begins at the weekend, with Sunday's Prix Rothschild for fillies and mares over a mile the first of five Group 1 contests at the track in the coming weeks. The Rothschild was won on four consecutive occasions by Goldikova, the last of those as a six-year-old in 2011, but on the whole it is the three-year-old generation which has held sway over older fillies and mares in recent years.
In Sunday's contest, however, the three-year-old fillies look up against it. Peace Burg, Topaze Blanche and Kenhope finished first, second and third respectively in the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly in June, the winner proving better positioned than the placed fillies in what was a steadily-run race. Kenhope has run well since at long odds when staying on to take second in the Coronation Stakes, in which she had Maureen behind her in fourth, but neither of those were any match for the latter's stable-companion Sky Lantern.
The three-year-old challenge is completed by another useful filly, Mayyadah, who won a listed race for Goldikova's trainer Freddie Head at Maisons-Laffitte last time, but this represents a big jump in class as well as being her first try at beyond seven furlongs.
The older brigade is headed by last year's winner Elusive Kate. She proved as good as ever when beating Sky Lantern in the Falmouth Stakes last time, something that may have got overlooked in the controversy over her wayward course in the closing stages when carrying the runner-up across the track. There was nothing to stop Elusive Kate hanging left at Newmarket, whereas at Deauville, where they usually race up the stand rail over the straight mile, Elusive Kate has kept on the straight and narrow with excellent results; her only defeat in four starts at the track came when a good third in the Prix Jacques le Marois last summer.
Good as she is though, Elusive Kate's wins in both this race last year and in the Falmouth last time came when having the run of things in very small fields and she might not be able to dominate so easily in this bigger field, particularly from her draw well away from the rail.
An interesting alternative to Elusive Kate, therefore, is the lightly-raced Irish filly Duntle. She's been first past the post in her last five starts, most recently in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. Although yet to match her best form so far this year, a steadily-run race last time wouldn't have played to her strengths and she battled well when called upon, while the form received a boost when third-placed Dank won a Group 2 at the Curragh last weekend. The strong-travelling Duntle should have the race run to suit more on Sunday given that the same owners' Poupee Flash is presumably there to set a decent pace - as well as giving competition for Elusive Kate up front.
Chigun would be a danger if returning to her best but shaped as though amiss when only sixth to Duntle at Royal Ascot. The same goes for last year's Falmouth Stakes winner Giofra who wasn't seen to best effect when third behind Elusive Kate in the latest renewal and wears cheekpieces for the first time here. Grace Lady is an improved filly this year, but faces much more of a test of speed after winning the Prix Corrida over an extended ten furlongs on soft ground at Saint-Cloud last time, while Laygirl has been in good form in handicaps this year but looks out of her depth in this company.
Back Duntle in the Prix Rothschild
Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:
132 Elusive Kate
128 Grace Lady
Tried our new US site? Click HERE to find out more.