Scott Burton, our man in France, picks out two fancies on the Longchamp bill
There may be no football to watch anywhere in Europe west of Minsk but before the smart Wooded found the back of the net at Chantilly on Wednesday Francis Graffard had already rattled the bar a couple of times in the few Pattern races to be run since the resumption of French racing on Monday.
There must have been a grain of frustration before that win, since his string were in flying form before the coronavirus brought its deadly presence to bear.
Among those to get on the scoresheet when the French Flat season was still in its infancy was Emoji, winner of a heavy-ground Baden-Baden maiden last back-end and the best swimmer on the day in very deep conditions in a Saint-Cloud Listed race on his debut for Graffard.
Her stout German breeding and the recommendation of her jockey, Pierre-Charles Boudot, have led to a step up in trip but the trainer's comments that Emoji would not have been out of place in Monday's Prix de la Grotte suggest she should not be written off as short of pace.
Her likely chief market rival is Flighty Lady, who also changed yards over the winterafterfinishing a fine third for Gavin Hernon in the Prix Marcel Boussac.
That represents a higher level of achievement that Emoji has managed so far but Jean-Claude Rouget will be on a fact-finding mission with his new recruit, who looked as if 1m1f would be an absolute minimum when chasing home Albigna on Arc day.
In addition plenty of Rouget's good horses have looked in need of the run first up this week and Emoji's recent run tips the verdict in her favour.
In fact, it would be a mistake to underestimate Passefontaine, who has yet to win but is well regarded after two runs on the all-weather and might prove the biggest threat to Emoji.
The day's other Group 3, the Prix La Force, looks a really interesting race with a view to the Prix du Jockey Club and were any one of five colts to win well it would be no great surprise.
As a betting proposition the Prix Zarkava looks a better offer, with several fillies who have shown a high level of form at three out to prove their owners made the correct call in keeping them in training rather than sending them off to the paddocks.
Queen would be a deserving earner of a black-type success after three brave efforts in defeat last autumn, and will also be popular with British and Irish punters after running so well at Newmarket in the race named for her celebrated dam Pride.
Tamniahfinished a disappointing seventh of eight that day, having been set a very stiff task against Star Catcher in the Prix Vermeille before that.
But she was both brave and classy when denying Star Terms in the Prix Minerve at Deauville in August, a success for which she narrowly escapes a penalty.
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