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American Flag and Blue Rose Cen are major contenders for Sunday’s French Classics

3 minute read

American Flag can fulfil trainer Yann Barberot’s dreams if the flashy bay colt can extend his winning sequence in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1600m) at ParisLongchamp on Sunday (14 May).

Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Both the Poule d'Essai Poulains – for colts – and the G1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (1600m) – for fillies – will be simulcast featuring an exciting collection of top European three-year-old milers.

Barberot rode over 400 winners and, although the Deauville trainer has also sent out plenty of winners since his first success back in 2008, he says: "It could be that I am finally training the top horse that I have been dreaming of."

The son of Wootton Bassett cruised to victory in March's Listed Prix Omnium II (1600m) at Saint-Cloud and followed up when swooping from the rear, again under Christophe Soumillon, in April's G3 Prix de Fontainebleau – the long-established course and distance trial for the Poulains.

Surging clear in the closing stages he defeated Marhaba Ya Sanafi by two and a half lengths with that colt – winner of his two previous starts and trained by former Hong Kong-based Andreas Schutz - set to reoppose on Sunday.

"American Flag  is a lovely and relaxed colt who does everything I've asked him of him, but I've not pushed him hard at home. I want something left for the big day," says Barberot who adds: "All his wins have come on a slow surface, so I think we would prefer that."

Last month's G3 Prix Djebel (1400m) at Deauville is another significant audition for the Poulains and, in a tense finish, the late closing Good Guess managed to win from Breizh Sky. That pair along with close fourth Kubrick – whom trainer Jean-Claude Rouget insists will be better over the Poulains trip – are all headed for Sunday's Classic.

Isaac Shelby is a serious candidate from the UK, judging by his front-running victory in the G3 Greenham Stakes (1400m) at Newbury on 22 April. The only colt who gave Brian Meehan-trained, Sean Levey-ridden son of Night Of Thunder any bother in the closing stages was Chaldean, though he was riderless at the time having deposited Frankie Dettori on the turf as soon as the gates opened. Chaldean went on to score a dazzling victory in last Saturday's (6 May) G1 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Newmarket and meanwhile, in the last few days, Isaac Shelby has been the subject of a big-money purchase from Qatari-based Wathnan Racing.

In the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, the filly that the opposition will surely be most scared by is Blue Rose Cen. Already a Group 1 winner when she monopolised the closing stages of last October's G1 Prix Marcel Boussac over this course and distance, she then returned with a decisive front-running victory in last month's G3 Prix de la Grotte – also over the Pouliches venue and trip.

Blue Rose Cen's in-form trainer Christopher Head is succinct in his comments: "She is our champion, and the Pouliches is our goal."

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