'This was a proper Group 1' – Recoletos gives Alpha Centauri form a big boost
A year ago Carlos Laffon-Parias was weighing up his options for Recoletos between the Arc and the British Champion Stakes. Fast forward 12 months and a late surge past Wind Chimes brought a second Group 1 for the son of Whipper, who now holds strong claims to be considered the best older horse over a mile in Europe.
While his top-level breakthrough in the Prix d'Ispahan over 1m1f in May may not have caused too many ripples outside France, here Olivier Peslier had Expert Eye, Lightning Spear and Without Parole among those in his rear-view mirror.
This was a fine endorsement of Alpha Centauri, who beat Recoletos by two and a half lengths in the Prix Jacques le Marois and who will be expected to extend her Group 1 winning streak to five as long as the ground permits her to take her chance in next Saturday's Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.
A delighted Laffon-Parias said: "I had the best horse and the best jockey in the race – Olivier has been with me for all my best triumphs – and when he came there I thought he would win more easily, but Wind Chimes really fought hard at the end.
"What he's done this year has been extraordinary and this was a proper Group 1. We have beaten all the best around except, of course, Alpha Centauri and he deserves to find a good place at stud."
Coral make Recoletos 11-2 second favourite (from 8) for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, a course where he has enjoyed mixed fortunes.
Before his reinvention as a miler, Recoletos ran a fine fourth in last year's Qipco Champion Stakes but then lost his race before he had reached the parade ring in June after boiling over following a visit from BHA vets ahead of the Queen Anne Stakes.
"In the normal run of things, the logical next step is the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, although I hope it goes better than last time," said Laffon-Parias. "There's the Breeders' Cup to consider as well and we could decide to skip Ascot and go straight there. But in principle it will be the QEII."
Ascot could also feature in plans for third home Expert Eye, who added a second placed effort at Group 1 level and turned the tables on his Sussex Stakes conqueror Lightning Spear, who finished in fifth.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdullah, said: "Expert Eye has run a very solid race. He didn't quite get the opening when he most wanted it but he's run really well and he's still improving. We'll have to look at the Breeders' Cup and probably the QEII, depending on how he goes after this."
Lightning Spear's chances were not helped by a wide draw and Oisin Murphy was unable to conjure the same burst of acceleration as at Goodwood.
"It was a messy race and it didn't quite pan out," said trainer David Simcock. "We probably weren't in the place we really wanted to be but we tracked the winner and he quickened better than us today. He's run all the way to the line but just hasn't quickened the way he can."
Andre Fabre was pleased with the run of both runner-up Wind Chimes and Plumatic, who was just run out of third by Expert Eye having looked a potential winner halfway up the straight.
"They ran well and I’m pleased with both," said Fabre. "The plan [from here] was to run Wind Chimes in the Prix de l’Opera but now I have a doubt about the distance. The Sun Chariot could be an option. The other thing is to try a bit further but we’ll have to see. Plumatic may have hit the front a bit soon. He will go to the Daniel Wildenstein and then the Breeders' Cup."
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