Sunday, 3 June 2012
: A maximum field of 20 will line up for Sunday's Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly with a strong domestic team facing an interesting Anglo/Irish challenge for France's premier three-year-old classic.
Much of the talk has been about the Andre Fabre-trained Saint Baudolino who is reported to have worked extremely well since he gained valuable Chantilly experience when winning the G3 Prix de Guiche, a major Derby trial, last month.
The Godolphin-owned son of Pivotal showed courage and smart acceleration to charge through a narrow gap and put that race to bed under his Derby jockey Maxime Guyon.
Another possible French-trained winner is Hard Dream, who is based a seven hour road journey away in the far south west of France with trainer Francois Rohaut.
The colt won another of the chief trials – the G2 Prix Noailles – on deep ground but Rohaut says there is every chance he will be even more effective on a faster surface.
The French Derby is a rare European G1 to have eluded the all-conquering Aidan O'Brien, who will go to Chantilly on a high after his Oaks/Derby double at Epsom in the last 48 hours.
The ace Irish trainer is hoping that Imperial Monarch will stretch his unbeaten run to three although the colt's two wins have come on very soft ground.
O'Brien is anxious that the ground won't ride too fast on Sunday.
British stables will be represented by Most Improved, Gregorian and Ektihaam.
Roger Varian, trainer of Ektihaam, commented: “He went beautifully and we are very confident of a big show.”
Ektihaam will be the first ride in a European classic for Paul Hanagan, last year's champion jockey in Britain, since he was appointed retained jockey to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.