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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Roly Poly: Holiday romance or a filly to stay in your heart?

Notes and observations from the first weekend of French racing's summer festival

Deauville's picturesque winner's enclosure
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There are times when you just have to hold your hands up and admit you were wrong: that your first impressions were hasty and that more should have met your eye. 

Roly Poly left a lasting blank with your correspondent both before and after her run in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches here in May.

So much so in fact that when she first entered the same parade ring before the Prix Rothschild last Sunday, it came as a surprise to me that she was far from the most imposing of the ten fillies in the line-up, even allowing for the fact that she is three and all but three of her rivals were older. 

There may also have been some lurking, barely registered prejudice at the back of my mind when compared to fillies and mares who I know much better based in France such as Qemah and Usherette.

Was the Falmouth form up to much? Have we all yet to be completely won over by her sire, War Front?

Roly Poly and Ryan Moore land the Prix Rothschild, the first of five Group 1s at the Deauville summer meeting

Apparently a lot can change in a minute and 40-something seconds and by the time she and Ryan Moore walked into Deauville's packed winner's enclosure – flanked by by the ever-present Pat Keating and Minding's groom, Damien Kerwick – I felt like I was looking at a different horse. 

Aside from her toughness, she had won me over with no little amount of class. The Rothschild may have become slightly messy in behind, but this was a deep race and, while a short neck and a short head may not sound a lot in terms of winning distances, Roly Poly gave the impression of a filly who may only just be getting started. 

Of course she was soundly outpointed by her stablemate Winter twice earlier in the season. But while Ryan Moore was talking of the traditional distaff races in the autumn over a mile – the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown and the Sun Chariot at Newmarket – other minds sped forward to a couple of even bigger prizes. 

Were Roly Poly trained by anyone other than Aidan O'Brien, another run in a fortnight's time against even tougher opposition in the Jacques le Marois might look like wishful thinking.

But with Goodwood falling a week later than has been the case recently and thus the close proximity of the Sussex Stakes, the Marois has a far from certain shape to it at this stage.

It will still be among the best mile races run all year in Europe and the likes of Le Brivido and Taareef will ensure the prize isn't wrested from the home team easily but, If Roly Poly bounces out of the Rothschild as well as she did the Falmouth, it will be worth at least bearing it in mind. 

And it should be remembered that she was sent to the Breeders' Cup on her eighth start as a juvenile in 2016. With Winter and Barney Roy now up in trip and the same move already mooted for Churchill, Europe could be in need of "tough and classy" come the Mile at Del Mar in November. 

In the steps of Dabirsim? Dameron could be another Ferland ace

Christophe Ferland's patience with Heshem was rewarded with Group 2 success at Maisons-Laffitte on Sunday
In last week's Deauville preview, much was made of the historic precedents for the newcomers' races on Tuesday, August 8, and again on Tuesday, August 22. 

But the first two days of the meeting may already have revealed enough two-year-old talent to have the Racing Post Tracker creaking at the seams. 

On Sunday, Freddy Head produced a pair of potentially smart fillies in Prix de Cabourg winner Tantheem and easy maiden winner Polydream. 

The Andre Fabre-trained Beau Ideal justified market support in the Prix de Tancarville 24 hours earlier over six furlongs, while a length back in second Dameron went into several notebooks after only finding daylight at the third attempt under Julien Auge.

Christophe Ferland went on to score in the Listed Prix du Cercle with Cox Bazar, who immediately put himself in the picture for the Prix de l'Abbaye with a dominant display. 

Referring to Dameron – who is from the first crop of Ferland's Prix Morny and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere hero Dabirsim – he said: "I was very confident he would make a good debut and he only really got a run 100 metres before the line. There are two choices, either we come back here for a maiden on August 20 or else we get tempted to go straight for the Group 1 [Morny]."

Ferland is not a trainer to needlessly talk his horses up and the fact he was thinking such a thought out loud is surely telling. 

Who will be the Fas-test in Maurice de Gheest speed-fest ?

Goodwood's place in the calendar relative to Deauville means the Prix Maurice de Gheest falls just five days after the Group 2 Lennox Stakes over half a furlong further. 

The home defence is set to be led by Signs Of Blessing, a fine winner of this race 12 months ago and a criminally underestimated sprinter in some parts (maybe it's the Roly Poly effect in reverse and he is yet to really reproduce his best French and Hong Kong form in Britain). 

Fas is due to make his first start since thrashing subsequent Poule d'Essai des Pouliches heroine Precieuse in the Prix Sigy back in April, having been a late defection from his intended target in the Commonwealth Cup.

Ballylinch Stud have bought a stake in the son of Fastnet Rock since his last run, while trainer Pia Brandt gave the three-year-old a racecourse workout at Chantilly last Friday. 

Beware those three-year-olds... 

More horsepower

Every visitor to Deauville this August has the chance to win one of 18 cars

Everyone entering the racecourse at Deauville this month will be handed a "bulletin de jeu" to enter a free draw for a new car, courtesy of meeting sponsors Renault. 

Nothing surprising in that until you realise there is a daily draw for a car at each of the 18 meetings and the winner will literally drive away in their prize. 

Regular racegoers will also notice a few new innovations around the paddock, including outsized casual seating composed of cushions and pallets, as well as a couple of boules rinks.

For those in town the weekend of the Maurice de Gheest, there is also top class showjumping at the Pole International du Cheval in neighbouring Saint-Arnoult from August 4-6.

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