Earthlight v Golden Horde part three: Keith Melrose on the Maurice de Gheest
LARC Prix Maurice de Gheest (Group 1) | 3yo+ | 6½f | Sky
The Maurice de Gheest is as deep a Group 1 as the Sussex Stakes was last week. It has drawn genuine contenders from the sprint and seven-furlong divisions, even a couple who could be reasonably regarded as milers.
The difference is that while the pre-race view of the Sussex suggested it had no obvious star, the Maurice de Gheest has Earthlight. He is unbeaten in six starts, albeit nearly a year down the line from his best effort on form, when he gave Raffle Prize weight and a beating in the Prix Morny at this track. He has since beaten Golden Horde in the Middle Park and readily won a Listed race here on his belated reappearance.
Stepping up from a bare six furlongs should benefit Earthlight. He is bred to get a mile, more or less, and the impression that a little extra emphasis on stamina will allow him to show a world-class performance, if he has one in him.
Much has been made of the physical development Golden Horde made between being beaten by Earthlight and winning the Commonwealth Cup. In form terms, it amounts to only 1lb, although more is not hard to make out. He hung left when third in the July Cup last time, so a draw in stall ten could have been kinder.
At the other side of the draw is Space Blues (on the stands' rail in stall one). He was third in this race last year, second in the Prix Jean Prat, too, so the course is no issue. Believe what you saw at Goodwood last time and he is a better horse this year, so do not think Godolphin's challenge extends only as far as the favourite.
Although the stalls are placed on the rail, the race has a tendency to unfold down the middle of the track. Hello Youmzain, who shows plenty of pace over a bare six furlongs, is drawn right in the middle and could be key, especially if he is trusted to last out the trip. His position is good news for those drawn away from the wings, such as Earthlight and Jean Prat runner-up Lope Y Fernandez.
Keith Melrose, betting editor
Golden Horde in 'great shape' for Earthlight rematch
Golden Horde finished just a neck down to Earthlight in last September's Middle Park Stakes, a fair improvement on the two and three-quarter-length defeat he suffered when the pair first met in the Prix Morny over all but 100 metres of this Deauville track.
As any statistician will tell you, there needs to be at least a third data point before you can draw a line that would be described as a trend but Clive Cox believes he has Golden Horde in shape to give Earthlight a real fight.
Cox said: "He did a great job first time up in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot and backed that up with a solid performance in the July Cup. But I would be even happier that he's had a little bit more time since then. He has a high standard of form and we're looking forward to taking on Earthlight again."
Andre Fabre has always believed that Earthlight has thrived over six furlongs because of his class as much as raw speed, categorising the son of Shamardal before his recent comeback win as "not a pure sprinter."
Theoretically the slightly extended trip here should play to Earthlight's strengths but, on a speed track like Deauville, Cox is hopeful that a lack of stamina will not be an issue for Golden Horde.
"The way he hit the line in the Middle Park last year, the extra half a furlong isn't a concern," said Cox. "After being passed in the July Cup he stayed on very well up the rising ground too.
"The extra distance doesn't bother me and I hope it might be useful."
Fabre has been delighted with Earthlight since returning from the fetlock sprain which ruled out a tilt at the mile Classics and, while the form of his win in the Prix Kistena three weeks ago was nothing to write home about, he knows his horse is the one the rest all have to worry about.
"Earthlight’s juvenile form is among the best around and he comes into this race in excellent condition," said the 30-time champion trainer.
What they say
Charlie Appleby, trainer of Space Blues
Space Blues has come out of the Lennox Stakes in good form. He ran well in this race last year and, with the way he has performed so far this year, we are heading back very confident that he can run a big race. Every time he has stepped up in grade this season, he has won more impressively, while he has performed well at Group 1 level on both his previous starts at Deauville.
Kevin Ryan, trainer of Hello Youmzain
He is stepping up to six and a half furlongs for the first time but it's a good opportunity for him to go over to France and try to land a big prize. He's been an amazing horse for us and was really impressive when holding on to win the Diamond Jubilee Stakes from Dream Of Dreams.
Philippe Sogorb, trainer of Batwan
I prefer him over 1,000 metres [five furlongs] but there isn't much for him at that trip in France before the Prix du Petit Couvert and the Prix de l'Abbaye. He is in good form and although he ran well to be fourth here last month, he still showed some temperament. He gives the impression of not fully concentrating so I've popped on a pair of cheekpieces. It is a bit far for him but if he is in a going mood he could feature in the finish at this level.
Pascal Bary, trainer of Spinning Memories
She had a couple of hard races earlier in the year and it has taken a while to get her back to her best but she is now in great form. I think she can run even better than last year [when she was fourth]. This is her trip and her track and I'm quietly confident.
Francis Graffard, trainer of Wooded
He ran well last time and seems very well but it’s obviously a very good field. He is a real six-furlong horse but I had nowhere else to run him and as a three-year-old colt, he needed to get back racing. I knew it would be tough and he ran as I expected. I think I’ve got him in better shape than before the Jean Prat and we’re coming back and if only we could shorten the race by another 100 metres, it would be even better! There will be more pace on and he loves fast ground but it’s a proper race.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Lope Y Fernandez and Wichita
Lope Y Fernandez is in good form and ran a lovely race the last day over seven furlongs. We're coming back in trip because he showed a lot of speed in that race – he came there cantering – so it will be interesting to see how he gets on here. He's definitely sharpening up with every run. Wichita never ran at anything less than seven furlongs but Frankie [Dettori] rode him the last day and said he'd loads of pace and that he'd be comfortable over this trip.
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