Coolmore Classic hopefuls Magical and Wind Chimes clash as trials step up a gear
The Group 3 Prix de la Grotte (2.50) is traditionally the most reliable guide to the French version of the 1,000 Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches.
However the vagaries of the weather have meant that there could be Newmarket clues on show at Longchamp on Monday, after Andre Fabre was forced to reroute Wind Chimes from the Prix Imprudence in the hope of encountering a less testing surface than at Deauville on Monday.
That means an intriguing meeting with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Magical, one of three horses the master of Ballydoyle sends over for the meeting and the mount of Ryan Moore.
O'Brien said: "She was very consistent last year and she's been working well. She handles ease in the ground. We're trying blinkers for the first time."
In the same ownership, Wind Chimes is being aimed at the Qipco 1,000 Guineas having been unbeaten in two runs at two.
Magical finished a short head behind Mission Impassible in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc day, and Mission Impassible's trainer Jean-Claude Rouget said: "She probably won’t be suited by heavy ground."
The Pau-based trainer has suffered the same problems with the weather at his base in Pau as his colleagues throughout France and added: "It’s been the same weather down with us as everywhere and we haven’t done a lot with them."
Rouget also saddles the unbeaten Latita, who won all three starts for trainer Fabrice Vermeulen last term, culminating in a Listed race at Bordeaux.
"It's an experiment with her in what is a good field," said Rouget.
Rostropovich faces last year's highest-rated French juveniles
Olmedo found only the O'Brien-trained Happily too strong in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, a performance that placed him at the top of the French handicapper's list for 2017 on 112.
He is one of five to face the starter in what looks a high-class edition of the Prix de Fontainebleau (1.35)
Two years ago Rouget used the race as a starting point for Almanzor – who like Olmedo carried the pale blue spotted silks of Antonio Caro – before stepping him up to middle distances.
But Olmedo is being prepared for the French 2,000 Guineas back here in a month's time.
"He seems well," said Rouget. "I think 1,600 metres will be fine for him now and he'll head to the Poule d’Essai after this if all goes well."
Rated 2lb Olmedo's inferior, Godolphin's Wootton left a huge impression when bolting up in the Listed Prix Isonomy at Deauville in October and might easily be the colt that pari-mutuel punters latch onto.
"He's been working well but I just hope there isn’t too much more rain," said trainer Alex Pantall. "Holding ground wouldn’t be a problem as he's already won on that but I wouldn’t want it very heavy."
With the ground at Longchamp gradually drying out, 'holding' looks like being exactly what Pantall and company will get.
O'Brien and Moore team up with Rostropovich, a Group 2 winner at the Curragh last summer before finishing third to Verbal Dexterity in the National Stakes on heavy ground.
The trainer said: "He's in good shape. It will be his first time going a mile but it shouldn't be a problem. He showed last season he was quite adaptable in terms of ground."
Eyrefield Stakes winner Flag Of Honour returns
While several of his leading middle-distance hopefuls for the season ran on Saturday in the Ballysax Stakes, O'Brien fields Flag Of Honour in the Group 3 Prix Noailles (3.25).
"He's ready to start and he handles ease," said O'Brien. "He won a Group 3 over nine furlongs last season so the extra distance shouldn't be a problem."
O'Brien should have a good chance of landing the feature race back home in Ireland on Sunday, with Clear Skies facing four rivals in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Noblesse Stakes at Cork.
There is British interest in Germany, meanwhile, with the Sylvester Kirk-trained Dance Me bidding to get off the mark in the Group 3 Karin Baronin Von Ullmann – Schwarzgold-Rennen at Cologne.
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