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As French Classics kick off, six potential storylines to watch out for

Andre Fabre could hold the key to the destination of this season's Prix du Jockey Club
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While the older horses have already been putting on a show, led by Prix Ganay winner Waldgeist, Sunday marks the start of the Group 1 year for the Classic generation in France. 

And beyond the names that will be added to the roll of honour at Longchamp and later Chantilly, what might be the themes which emerge from across the English Channel?

Beyond Persian King in the House of Fabre

France's top-rated two-year-old has played a large part in the build-up to both Newmarket and Longchamp versions of the Guineas, but subject to how he gets on in Sunday's Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains, connections have always had an eye on the Qipco Prix du Jockey Club over an extended mile and a quarter.

But the son of Kingman is far from the only colt trained by Fabre who is beating a path to Chantilly on the first Sunday in June, as the 29-time champion trainer has dominated the trials to date. 

Both Prix Noailles winner Slalom and Prix de Guiche victor Flop Shot represent the brothers Wertheimer and decisions have yet to be made about their next races.

Flop Shot and Maxime Guyon after winning the Group 3 Prix de Guiche at Chantilly

"Slalom is a more obvious one among them and Flop Shot is the surprise of the spring," said Fabre. "He was not even entered in the Jockey Club and I wasn’t expecting him to do that.

"They are nice horses that were trained for those races, so we'll see. I have to discuss it with the owners but the problem is you don't have many options when you have won a Group 3"

Godolphin have their own candidate from the Prix Greffulhe, Roman Candle, while Fabre appears reluctant to put one or more into the Investec Derby picture, leaving the possibility that he could run an Aidan O'Brien-sized squad in the Jockey Club. 

Watch Longchamp on and off the track

Plenty of comment was passed about the capacity of the catering and betting facilities on Arc day at the renewed Longchamp and France Galop will be keen to have learned lessons by the time October rolls around.

For racing professionals there was almost as much concern about the quality of the track in 2018, with a hard winter followed by a wet spring, then a blazing summer, which left the course in a precarious state. 

The ground at Longchamp has shown a marked improvement in the early week of the 2019 season compared with last season

The early signs are that normal service has been resumed for grass growth and even ground. Carlos Laffon-Parias spoke for many trainers when he said in April: "We have our beloved Longchamp back."

Recent monsoon weather will pose a different challenge for track recovery for the meetings after the Poules d'Essai, but trainers from near and far can have more confidence that problems have been overcome.

Rising stars in the training ranks

Chantilly is a town that is changing and it does not take a leap of imagination to see the generation of Andre Fabre and Alain de Royer-Dupre will not be the dominant names a few years from now. 

Henri-Francois Devin has come a long way in a short time and already has a Group 1 winner and a runner-up in both the Prix de Diane Longines and the Queen Mary Stakes on his list of achievements, as well as counting a raft of major breeders on his ownership roll. 

Less prominent but already proving they can train stakes-level horses are Carina Fey and Josephine Soudan, while there is a new addition to the Head training dynasty in Freddy's son Christopher.

David Cottin (right) has made a fine start to his training career

Over jumps former champion jockey David Cottin is now training plenty of winners from his twin bases in Chantilly and near Angers – many for major owners whose colours he used to wear – while Louisa Carberry continues to make successful raids on Auteuil with her small but select string in Senonnes, three hours west of Paris. 

An emerald vintage for the Aga Khan?

The famous green and red silks made famous by Shergar and Zarkava have been carried to Group 1 success in recent seasons by Zarak and Vazirabad but this season the Aga Khan may have a particularly strong crop of three-year-old fillies, headed by the unbeaten Siyarafina.

The daughter of Pivotal could be stretched out to a mile and a quarter having missed the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches this week and it will be fascinating if she can produce the same telling acceleration at the intermediate trip. 

Royer-Dupre also has plenty of hope invested in maiden winners Samiyla and Dariyza, who looks capable of staying further than her stablemate, while he is also looking forward to the next run of Edisa following a disappointing reappearance at Longchamp last month. 

Can Appleby repeat 2018 successes?

After a first win in both the Derby and the Melbourme Cup, Charlie Appleby won't forget last year in a hurry.

But below those two headline victories the master of Moulton Paddocks had extraordinary success with his raids to France in the second half of the season, targeting the rich pickings of Deauville's August meeting before spreading out across the French Pattern, even landing Listed success at La Teste-de-Buch, south of Bordeaux.

Appleby had 15 wins from just 42 runners, with the highlight undoubtedly the Prix de l'Opera victory of Wild Illusion. 

Saeed Bin Suroor also scooped a couple of late-season juvenile Group 1 prizes to ensure Godolphin's UK operation finished fifth in the table, with their French arm crowned champion owners.

The early signs are that the Godolphin team's appetite is in no way diminished after both Ghaiyyath and Jalmoud won at Group level to ensure a 50 per cent strike rate in the early weeks of the season.  

. . . and don't forget Brexit

The deadline for Britain's exit from the European Union has been pushed back to October 31, past the end of the main action for both racing and bloodstock sales in France for this year. 

But with the politicians in London still deadlocked, French authorities continue preparations for no deal, with increased border checks a near certainty in the event the UK fails to sign a withdrawal agreement.


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Slalom is a more obvious one among them and Flop Shot is the surprise of the spring
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