Timeform's John Ingles previews Sunday's Prix de Diane at Chantilly and recommends a bet...
"Aidan O'Brien's filly sets a high standard judged on her second places in the 1000 Guineas and Oaks."
A remarkable statistic concerning the Prix de Diane, the 'French Oaks', is that eight of the last nine winners have been unbeaten at the time of their victory. Of those fillies, Zarkava and Treve kept their unbeaten records all the way through to winning the Arc in the autumn.
Of the 16 fillies in this year's line-up, only two have yet to be beaten, and either of them could still have that record intact after Sunday's race. Shutter Speed has won all three of her starts, with her two wins this season, in a minor event at Newbury and the Musidora Stakes, coming in the same two races which her trainer John Gosden won with Star of Seville en route to winning the Prix de Diane two years ago. Shutter Speed had a straightforward task at York, while at Newbury she had stable-companion Enable back in third. That filly proved well suited by another two furlongs when winning the Oaks, whereas Shutter Speed, who has taken a keen hold in her races, looks like proving best at around a mile and a quarter. The draw hasn't been that kind to Shutter Speed in this big field, but in Frankie Dettori she's got the right man on board to overcome any difficulties that might present.
Terrakova will have to find more improvement than Shutter Speed if she's to remain unbeaten, but that's not out of the question given she's had just two starts and can boast one of the best pedigrees of any filly in training, by Galileo out of Goldikova. After a winning debut on Chantilly's polytrack last year, Terrakova made a successful return in the Prix Cleopatre at Saint-Cloud in May when doing just enough to beat Panthelia three quarters of a length. That isn't Prix de Diane-winning form, but it's surely just a stepping stone towards going closer to living up to her breeding. While her dam became best known for her exploits later at a mile, it's worth remembering that Goldikova herself finished third in a high-class renewal of the Prix de Diane won by Zarkava.
Shutter Speed and Terrakova are the most interesting prospects in the field but the one they all have to beat judged on form - and classic form at that - is Rhododendron. Aidan O'Brien's filly sets a high standard judged on her second places in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks. She didn't quite have the speed to cope with stable-companion Winter at Newmarket and then got outstayed by Enable at Epsom over a mile and a half, so this intermediate trip should suit her ideally. The only worry concerning Rhododendron is that she's had little more than two weeks to recover from that battle with Enable in driving rain, though Star of Seville showed that defeat in the Oaks beforehand was no bar to success at Chantilly despite the two races being only nine days apart in her year.
Of the rest, Senga, Kitesurf and Sistercharlie are the other group-race winners in the line-up. Prix de la Grotte winner Senga has place prospects on her first try beyond a mile, though she'll need luck in running from the rear if usual tactics are employed, something she didn't enjoy when staying on for fourth in last year's Prix Marcel Boussac. Kitesurf, on the other hand, has won twice at a mile and a half, including in the Prix de Royaumont here two weeks ago, but looks vulnerable dropping back in trip. Sistercharlie is one of the more progressive fillies and took her record to three out of four in the Prix Penelope at Saint-Cloud last time.
Jean-Claude Rouget's bid to complete the French Derby/Oaks double for the second year running lies with Toulouse listed winner Onthemoonagain, she too beaten only once in four starts. Rouget has won four of the last eight renewals of the Prix de Diane, whereas Fabrice Chappet landed his very first French classic with Precieuse in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Deauville last month. His Diane representative Vue Fantastique has better claims than her maiden status suggests as she was second in the Prix Saint-Alary last time, though that form was hardly franked in the Oaks by the first and third from that race, Sobetsu and Coronet.
Not too many in this big field can be given winning chances, and while Shutter Speed looks the most progressive filly in the line-up, Rhododendron can make it third time lucky this season and provide her trainer with what would be an overdue first win in either a French Derby or Oaks.
Win Back Rhododendron in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly