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Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Can O'Brien break his duck and is there a Terra-trend ?

Aidan O'Brien congratulates Ryan Moore after landing the Arc at Chantilly last October with Found
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Several weeks ago I highlighted the recent poor record of the trials for the Prix de Diane Longines and why there could be some hope that the likes of Sistercharlie and Terrakova – who scored in the Prix Cleopatre after the article was published – might have a chance of overturning that trend. 

Since then the evidence has been accumulating ahead of what looks a typically high-class edition of the Classic at Chantilly on Sunday. 

Will there be another Zarkava or Treve lurking in the lineup? Musidora winner Shutter Speed is an odds-on chance with several firms in Britain and Ireland. So, as running plans begin to become clear, what are the key questions surrounding this year's race ?

Is Moore's joker a clue to Aidan's Rhododendron ambitions? 

The fact O'Brien is yet to win either of the Chantilly Classics is most easily explained by rival attractions in Britain, with the Jockey Club falling the day before the Derby and the Diane run recently just two days before the start of Royal Ascot.

It has been notable in the last two or three seasons that Coolmore have had greater strength in depth among their three-year-old fillies. In 2016 Alice Springs was only the third string in the 1,000 Guineas but added three victories in the highest company before the year was out.

And all the time Winter is safe and well, the Coronation Stakes at Ascot looks to take care of itself from the Ballydoyle perspective (which is a very different thing from saying the dual Guineas winner will have an easy time of it when facing the one-two from the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Precieuse and Sea Of Grace).

Rhododendron is the highest rated filly left in the race at 116 and should find the drop back to 1m2½f no problem after getting outstayed by Enable in the Oaks.

Possibly the biggest clue that O'Brien may be ready to send last year's dual Group 1 winner to Chantilly is that Ryan Moore has chosen to play one of his two annual disciplinary jokers to be able to ride in France on Sunday, a date which would otherwise be the first of a two-day suspension. 

Pocketfullofdreams is the other O'Brien possible as of Wednesday after fulfilling the pacemaking duties at Epsom, although she has the alternative of the Munster Oaks at Cork on Sunday. 

As for Rhododendron, her current list of engagements over the next month runs to the Ribblesdale Stakes, the Coronation Stakes, the Eclipse, the Pretty Polly and the Irish Oaks.

Is there a clear pecking order among the home team?

Is there a clear pecking order among the home defence ? Vue Fantasique heads the French handicapper's ratings on the basis of splitting Sobetsu and Coronet in the Saint-Alary, having been handed a mark

Vue Fantastique is the top-rated middle distance filly in France (110) – despite being a maiden – thanks to her runner-up effort behind the absent Sobetsu in the Coolmore-sponsored Prix Saint-Alary.

Next on ratings are: Senga (108, Prix de la Grotte Etalon Kendargent); Terrakova (104, Prix Cleopatre); Sistercharlie, Monroe Bay and Panthelia (101).

Visually both Terrakova and Sistercharlie were impressive in the way they quickened to land their trials, although on the strict figures they have ground to make up.  

Six of the last 20 Diane winners came via the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (including three of the last six) and it is unusual to see a line-up at Chantilly which doesn't feature any of the first five home in the mile Classic. 

Which fillies will relish the likely fast ground?

Shutter Speed is at the top of the list of fillies who should relish the expected good ground at Chantilly

Matthieu Vincent and his team applied 10mm of water to the track on Tuesday with the aim of maintaining good ground in the face of near unbroken sunshine and high temperatures.

Shutter Speed managed a rating of 108 at Newbury in April, a remarkable effort in a race below Listed status yet one which would appear fully justified given the subsequent exploits of third-placed stablemate Enable.

It was almost certainly Shutter Speed's class that got her through in the Musidora under a tender ride from Frankie Dettori on soft ground that she appeared to resent. As such John Gosden will be extremely pleased with the sunny outlook for Chantilly.

The Paris region has been generally dry throughout the months of April and June this year, while most of the trials run in the first three weeks of May took place on a notably easier surface. 

Sistercharlie did her running early and certainly appeared to appreciate good ground in her two wins at Saint-Cloud in April. Were she given the go-ahead, US-bred Senga has looked a different proposition on a sound surface (notably in the Prix Marcel Boussac and the Grotte), whereas she looked all at sea in softer conditions at Deauville in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. 

Terrakova is out of the mighty Goldikova, a three-time Breeders' Cup winner on firm ground but no match for Makfi on heavy in the Prix Jacques le Marois. Terrakova's two wins have both been on good ground, while she appears to have inherited a bit more stamina than her celebrated mother, courtesy of her sire Galileo. 

Is there a significant historical trend to note?

Can Terrakova triumph where her celebrated mother Goldikova did not ? At least one historical trend gives her every chance.

You would struggle to find a Classic or top class international Group 1 with a stronger trend than the one that applies to the Diane.

I am indebted to former BHA handicapper Neil Young ( @BohemiaStable ) for reminding me of the following remarkable statistic: going back to Nebraska Tornado in 2003, only West Wind had previously suffered defeat among the first French-trained fillies home in the race.

Confidential Lady (2006) and Star Of Seville (2015) are the only foreign-trained winners during that period and even they were chased home by unbeaten French fillies.

Put another way, 11 of the last 14 winners were unbeaten and trained in France. 

If the trend is to hold true in 2017, the only qualifier among the 20 remaining entries after the second forfeit stage is Terrakova...

Indomitable Diane heroines

2003  Nebraska Tornado -11

2004  Latice 11-1

2005  Divine Proportions 11111-11

2006  Germance* 1-111

2007  West Wind -321

2008  Zarkava 11-11

2009  Stacelita 1-111

2010  Sarafina -11

2011  Golden Lilac 11-11

2012  Valyra -11

2013  Treve 1-1

2014  Avenir Certain 11-11

2015  Physiocrate* -11

2016  La Cressonniere 1111-11

2017  Terrakova 1-1 ???

 

You would struggle to find a Classic or top class international Group 1 with a stronger trend than the one that applies to the Diane
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