Trainer Andre Fabre won the Prix de la Grotte with Golden Lilac last yearPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Exciting fillies to test Classic credentials
Preview: France, Sunday 2.40pm BST
Longchamp: Prix de la Grotte (Group 3) 1m, 3yo fillies
AS AN appetiser for the return of Dabirsim half an hour later this could hardly be better, with several potentially top-drawer fillies on trial for the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches.
Zantenda (Freddy Head/ Olivier Peslier) sets the standard, with a defeat of the reopposing Rajastani in the Prix d'Aumale followed up by third place in the Prix Marcel Boussac behind Elusive Kate.
The daughter of Zamindar pulled quite hard in the early stages that day before being left alone on the inside rail with nothing to race against.
Her main market rivals are likely to be a trio of unexposed fillies who have yet to compete in Group company.
Beauty Parlour (Elie Lellouche/Christophe Soumillon) was arguably the most visually impressive two-year-old filly to see a racecourse in France last year, when she won her two starts over 1m at Saint-Cloud by an aggregate of more than 11 lengths.
Mandistana (Alain de Royer-Dupre/Christophe Lemaire) was never headed when winning by five lengths at the same venue in October and goes straight into Group level on only her second start.
Woven Lace (Andre Fabre/Maxime Guyon) was an easy winner when making her debut on the Chantilly Polytrack last month, and has been supplemented for the race as her trainer attempts to follow up last season's victory with dual Classic winner Golden Lilac.
Stephane Pasquier: rides RajastaniPICTURE: Mark Cranham
Although they boast less obviously appealing profiles, neither Rajastani nor Kendam can be readily discounted.
Rajastani (Stephane Wattel/ Stephane Pasquier) was only a quarter of a length behind Zantenda in the Prix d'Aumale, before finishing third to Boldogsag and the Imprudence winner Mashoora at Deauville in October.
Kendam (Henri-Alex Pantall/Mickael Barzalona) has enjoyed the benefit of a recent run at Saint-Cloud, when only beaten half a length by the progressive Lily America.
What they say
Alain de Royer-Dupre, trainer ofMandistana
"We're running her in the Prix de la Grotte because her exercise has been good and we need to know if she's up to the level of running in the Poule d'Essai [des Pouliches]. She's a filly I like a lot. She has both speed and stamina and although she's up against very good opposition, that's the risk you have to take in this job."
Elie Lellouche, trainer of Beauty Parlour
"She's wintered well and she's very well although she definitely won't be 100 per cent for this race. But she's well and she should run well. In time I think she might prefer 2000m [1m2f], but we're running her here over 1600m [1m] to see which direction we take."
Freddy Head, trainer of Zantenda
"I'm very happy with her and she did well over the winter. She ran well in the Prix Marcel Boussac and I think she would have finishedcloser if she'd had horses to race against."