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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Beyond the trials: names to note from recent meetings

The Post's man in Paris looks at some Classic hopefuls

Ratiocination, a daughter of Prix Marcel Boussac heroine Denebola (pictured), made a real impression at Chantilly on Sunday
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One name who may stand out for some on Wednesday's card at Newmarket is Lady Bamford's Pamplemousse, and not just to those who remember from their schooldays that the filly's name translates as grapefruit. 

Unraced until a fortnight ago and now sent abroad on just her second start to tackle one of Britain's most historic 1,000 Guineas trials, the daughter of Siyouni reportedly shows next to nothing in the mornings, which perhaps is a clue as to why she holds no Classic entries. 

Above all what Pamplemousse's presence on the Rowley Mile shows is just how fast things move among the three-year-olds at this pressurised stage of the season. 

Andre Fabre: rewritten the French record books on the Flat but steeped in the jumps

As my esteemed colleague Julian Muscat pointed out last week, the French programme book wastes no time in laying the foundations for the riches to come in late March and April, while Britain launches its blur of Classic trials this week. 

And while Al Wukair and Senga justifiably hogged the headlines after the meetings at Maisons-Laffitte and Chantilly over the last ten days, the undercards there and elsewhere have also been worth a second look. 

In particular the newcomers' races over a mile at Chantilly on Sunday produced a handful of performances full of promise. 

On the colts' side, Ratiocination got the better of two well-bred Andre Fabre inmates in the Prix du Mont Cenis, with the first three nicely clear of the rest. 

Oshayger was the first to strike for home and stuck on well, while the winner got first run on the well-regarded Parabellum, who closed well at the line. 

But the really taking aspect of Ratiocination's performance  (check out the replay) was the smart acceleration he showed in getting to Oshayger, which was visually as impressive as anything which followed in the three Group races on the card. 

By Excelebration and out of the Niarchos family's Prix Marcel Boussac heroine Denebola – the maternal grand dam of Senga, who won the Prix de la Grotte an hour later – Ratiocination was described afterwards by Pascal Bary as "perhaps my best colt among the three-year-olds." 

The Aga Khan's Karishma looked the part ahead of the fillies' counterpart which kicked off the card, the Prix de la Lancelette

It was another Godolphin charge in Spindrift who was chasing her down at the end but again the winner possessed a superior turn of foot when the race began in earnest.

The two conditions races on Tuesday's Maisons-Laffitte card might not quite have gone according to script, especially with what appeared to have been an under-par performance from La Cochere in the fillies' race over the straight mile.

But credit where it is due to Flower Fashion, who will now head to the Prix Finlande according to trainer Nicolas Clement. 

Of more immediate concern was the victory of Mankib in the Prix Fould, a race whose equivalent served as a a springboard for Zarak last term. 

Out of 1,000 Guineas heroine Natagora, Mankib is clearly held in very high regard by Freddy Head, who didn't do a good job of hiding his slight disappointment afterwards despite the win. 

"I like him a lot and, on the basis of what I have seen at home, I thought he might have progressed a bit more than we saw there," he said, who went on to say that the Poule d'Essai des Poulains was a "probability" rather than a possibility next up for Mankib. 

Keeping everything crossed for Rouget

One of Jean-Claude Rouget's three yards in Pau has been struck by virus

It was in the moments after Karishma's win at Chantilly on Sunday that Jean-Claude Rouget chose to unburden himself as to the nightmare week he had just endured at the hands of a particularly deadly strain of equine herpes virus (EHV-1). 

Only last week in this column I wrote of the exciting prospect of seeing many of Rouget's stable stars at Royal Ascot, including Almanzor and Zelzal, both of whom reside in the same barn where two horses lost their life to the disease, which attacks the nervous system and in particular the spinal chord. 

Last Tuesday Rouget believed the fevers that had spiked over the previous weekend had receded and that the danger may be passing. By Thursday evening he had begun to think that all 47 horses in the barn might be lost. 

Rouget has far exceeded any normal duty of keeping the public informed and he deserves to be rewarded with a turn for the better in the health of horses under his care. 

He has promised to issue a full list of the 27 horses that showed elevated temperatures and of the 15 who were wobbly on their feet when he has the situation fully under control. 

There has been a trend in both France and Britain for trainers to be more open when sickness strikes in a yard and punters welcome any light being shed on the health of a yard. 

Rouget's horses in two other locations and even those from the same yard who do not share a barn with those showing symptoms have continued to run well, as shown by the fantastic performance of Brametot in the Prix de Fontainebleau on Sunday. 

But as one rival professional put it to me on Sunday, the last thing on Rouget's mind will be whether a certain horse makes Ascot or any other meeting. This is a matter of life and death. 

A burst which was visually as impressive as anything which followed in the three Group races on the card
E.W. Terms
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