Celebre leads French cause

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The sobering thought that Entrepreneur might be the leading figure in a rather miserable bunch of British three-year-olds recurred yesterday as the cross-Channel challenge foundered tamely in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly.

Britain has, unusually, been unable to claim any of the Guineas in Ireland or France this season, and one of the country's form horses, the Sandown Classic Trial winner Voyagers Quest, could manage only seventh behind Peintre Celebre yesterday.

Entrepreneur himself cantered over seven furlongs at three-quarter speed at Newmarket. Those who saw the work reported that the colt looked magnificent. The exact challenge he will face on Saturday became a little clearer yesterday.

Apprehension, the Dante Stakes sixth, was ruled out of the Classic by David Loder, while Ian Balding decided to get Carter and Gary now has his first Blue Riband ride, on Papua. Barry Hills, who has been second in the Derby four times, will now be represented by Musalsal and The Fly, both 33-1 shots. Godolphin too are giving themselves options and have signed up Kevin Darley to ride the horses that Frankie Dettori rejects. The Italian will be on Bold Demand and Siyadah in the Derby and Oaks respectively, while Darley rides Stowaway and Bint Baladee.

It was Dettori who provided a morsel of comfort at Chantilly yesterday. Starborough led all the way, with Dettori squatting tidily on his back and changing his hands as quickly as grandma with the knitting needles, to win the Group One Prix Jean Prat. This gave some vindication to the form of the 2,000 Guineas, in which the colt was fourth.

"Lester Piggott rode him in work before the Guineas and said he would finish in the first four at Newmarket," David Loder, the trainer, reported. "But we always thought he would do even better once he was able to run around a bend.

"He's in all the big races and I'd like to go for the St James's Palace Stakes next, where he would encounter a bend. After that the Eclipse is a possibility."

Dettori also led for much of the way on Perfect Paradigm in the French Derby but not at the point that mattered. It was a similar tale for Peter Chapple-Hyam's Voyagers Quest, who was recently purchased by Sidney Craig for his wife, Jenny. Mrs Craig thought she was flying into France to watch the French Open yesterday before the surprise was sprung.

It was on this day last year that Chapple-Hyam collapsed before the Derby, and his horse did virtually the same in the straight yesterday. There are worries that Voyagers Quest has caught the runny nose which affected Revoque so drastically in the Irish 2,000 Guineas last weekend. "I was worried about him beforehand," Chapple-Hyam, who was wearing what approximated to a New Labour rosette, said. "John said that he was going well during the race but then stopped to nothing. He wasn't his true self."

The Manton trainer nevertheless expects to have representation in the Epsom Derby, for which both last Sunday's Italian Derby winner, Single Empire, and Romanov are earmarked. "Both horses are fine and as far as I am concerned they will definitely be running," Chapple-Hyam said.

The Prix du Jockey Club was won, like it eventually had to be, by Olivier Peslier, Andre Fabre and Daniel Wildenstein. The vehicle for this, their first success in the event, was the white-faced Peintre Celebre, who swooped like an osprey on to a lake surface to collar Astarabad and then surge clear of Oscar.

Immediately after the victory and at interview Fabre was lost with emotion. "This horse is bred to win this because he goes back to Pawneese," he said after managing to compose himself. "I like winning races in England and I'm sure he'll be coming over to try to win some of the big races."

An outrider for the Fabre yard will be on the Surrey Downs this weekend, and if there is indeed an absence of quality about Blighty's runners it may be that the colt to find them out is Fabre's representative, the Prix Lupin winner Cloudings.


Prix du Jockey Club: 1. PEINTRE CELEBRE (O Peslier); 2. Oscar; 3. Astarabad. 14 ran. (Trained by A Fabre for D Wildenstein). Voyagers Quest (7th), Casey Tibbs (11th), Perfect Paradigm (13th). Pari-mutuel: win 4.10; places 2.10, 3.10, 4.20. DF: 25.70.