Timeform preview Sunday's Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.
"Persian King is following a well-trodden route by some of his stable’s top three-year-old colts."
Timeform on Persian King
There's more than one Derby this weekend, and twenty-four hours after Epsom it's Chantilly's turn to host the French equivalent, nowadays run over ten and a half furlongs. Fifteen colts have been declared, with three from Britain and another three making up Aidan O'Brien's annual raiding party.
There's little between the three British runners on ratings and all are lightly-raced colts with scope for more improvement. Surfman (Roger Varian) had the option of Epsom instead after finishing third behind Telecaster and Too Darn Hot in the Dante. That's strong Derby trial form, and despite not settling early on at York, he shaped like a stayer in coming from a long way back and was still five lengths behind the winner at the line without troubling either of the first two. Raise You (Andrew Balding) is taking more of a step up in grade, but he looks ready for it judged on his clear-cut win in the listed Fairway Stakes at Newmarket and he's by a winner of this race, Lope de Vega. Kick On represents sponsors Qatar Racing for John Gosden but stamina might be an issue for him. He was seventh in the 2000 Guineas last time after winning the listed Feilden Stakes at Newmarket over nine furlongs but this longer trip isn't guaranteed to suit.
Aidan O'Brien has never won the Prix du Jockey Club despite sending numerous runners over the years for the good reason that any Ballydoyle colt who has shown himself to be up to Derby standard will be sent to Epsom instead. However, Highland Reel finished second for O'Brien at Chantilly four years ago and that colt's brother Cape of Good Hope heads his stable's Chantilly trio this year despite a win at Epsom last time in the Blue Riband Trial. While a mile and a half will suit him in due course, he's another with place chances. Royal Lodge winner Mohawk is more exposed, but the return to further is in his favour after he finished in mid-division in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Blenheim Palace could have a pacemaking role again (has a favourable draw to carry that out) as when a good second to one of the stable's Epsom contenders Broome in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial last time.
As for the French contenders, the Aga Khan's Zarkallani has the most to find on ratings but is also easily the most intriguing contender. It's a surprise he has stood his ground given that he only won a maiden at Longchamp last Sunday, but he's a son of unbeaten Arc winner Zarkava who has already produced a Jockey Club runner-up Zarak. His trainer Alain de Royer Dupre has won this race six times already, and it often pays to take note when he steps one straight up from maiden/minor company to Group 1 level, as he did successfully with the filly Siyarafina last Sunday.
Another promising colt taking a big step up in grade is Motamarris who is unbeaten in three starts for Freddie Head. Two of his wins have come by wide margins, including in a three-runner contest over course and distance last time, and he's another very much bred for the job, by one Jockey Club winner Le Havre and from the family of another Anabaa Blue.
Le Havre is also the sire of one Andre Fabre's contenders Roman Candle who won the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud last time, the trial won by last year's Prix du Jockey Club winner Study of Man. Stable-companion Slalom, by Intello, is another bidding to follow in his sire's footsteps by winning on Sunday, and he too won one of the main trials, the Prix Noailles at Longchamp, which took his record to three out of three. However, it is Persian King, who has much the strongest claims of providing Fabre with a fifth win in the race, his form as a Group 1 winner already looking a cut above what his opponents have achieved to date.
Persian King's two-year-old form looks all the better now given that he beat subsequent Guineas winner Magna Grecia at Newmarket, while he landed his fifth win in a row when winning the Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp last time despite conditions being softer than are probably ideal for him. Lope de Vega completed the French Guineas/Derby double for Fabre in 2010 and his two more recent Jockey Club winners, Intello and New Bay, both suffered unlucky defeats in the Poulains beforehand, so Persian King is following a well-trodden route by some of his stable's top three-year-old colts. The step up in distance shouldn't be a problem for the son of Kingman whose dam won over the trip and was a half-sister to Planteur, a runner-up in the Jockey Club.
Of the rest, Sottsass can be added to the list of those with place claims after winning a listed contest on this course by six and a half lengths last time and makes more appeal than Jean-Claude Rouget's other runner Joe Francais who was only fourth to Slalom in the Noailles. Rockemperor had both Roman Candle and Sotsass behind him when runner-up in the Prix La Force at Longchamp and is still lightly raced, while Starmaniac could finish only third to Roman Candle in the Prix Greffulhe when sent off favourite.
Persian King is hard to oppose given he stands out on form and looks a potentially high-class colt. Behind him, though, it's a wide-open contest with plenty of other potential improvers, Surfman and Cape of Good Hope appealing as much as any among the visitors, while Zarkallani is one to keep an eye on.
Back Persian King in Sunday's Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly