French have new clear Classic hope in Tahiti

Matt Chapman on this season's cross-Channel challengers
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The Independent Online
Ignore the French at your peril. In the last three seasons they have won 72 of the 22l Group One races in Europe at a strike-rate of over 32 per cent. Although betting on this year's British Classics is dominated by the home-trained horses, Alhaarth and Bosra Sham, Celtic Swing held a similarly lofty perch in 1995 yet was toppled in the 2,000 Guineas by Andre Fabre's Pennekamp. He, along with Sunshack and Cherokee Rose were winners at the highest level in Britain and, with the leading Arab owners continuing to patronise Chantilly stables, the French have every chance of improving on that tally. Fabre, with 11 Group One wins in 1995, dominates the training ranks, but there is a strong word for Criquette Head's 1996 team, and John Hammond, Jonathan Pease, Alain de Royer-Dupre and Elie Lellouche are also to be feared in the main events.

AFFIDAVIT

four-year-old colt

by Affirmed out of Narwala

Progressed into a smart stayer last season, winning four races including a Group 2 at Longchamp and Group 3 over nearly two miles at Deauville. Only seventh behind Celtic Swing in the Prix du Jockey-Club and fifth to Classic Cliche in the St Leger, but can improve further and become a contender for races like the Ascot Gold Cup.

(Trained by A Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed)

ASHKALANI

three-year-old colt

by Soviet Star out of Ashtarka

Unbeaten half-sister to Prix du Cadran winner Shafaraz. Won Longchamp maiden in October and impressed in landing the Group 3 Prix Thomas Byron at Saint-Cloud the following month. Should stay beyond a mile and is expected to prove one of the Aga Khan's best three-year-olds. (Trained by A de Royer-Dupre for Aga Khan)

A VOTRE SANTE

three-year-old filly

by Irish River out of Mrs. Jenney

Burst on to the Classic scene when easily winning a Listed contest at Saint-Cloud by six lengths last month. Referring to her 1992 1,000 Guineas winner, her trainer describes A Votre Sante as "Hatoof Mark Two". Could run in the 1,000 Guineas, although the French equivalent is more likely. Her grandam, Mrs Penny, won the Prix de Diane and Prix Vermeille so should get further than a mile. (Trained by Mme C Head for Marshall W Jenney)

CARLING

four-year-old filly

by Garde Royale out of Corraleja

Did The Independent's French 12-to-follow proud last season in landing the Prix de Diane and Vermeille. Returned with a satisfactory second to Valanour in the Prix d'Harcourt at Longchamp on Sunday when firm going was against her. (Trained by Mme C Barbe for T Yoshida)

CIEL DE FEU

three-year-old filly by Blushing John out of Northern Trick

Third on only juvenile start in a good Longchamp maiden. Held in high regard and should make mark in useful company over a mile and a half this season. Comes from a quality family -dam was second to Sagace in the 1994 Arc -and has an Oaks entry. (Trained by J Pease for S Niarchos)

DARK NILE

three-year-old colt

by Riverman out of lxtapa

Like A Votre Sante, Dark Nile could hardly have scored in better fashion on his seasonal debut when landing the Listed Prix de Courcelles at Longchamp last week. "He has both stamina and speed and is the perfect type for the Prix du Jockey-Club," his trainer said. (Trained by Mme C Head for K Abdullah)

HELISSIO

three-year-old colt

by Fairy King out of Helice

Unraced at two, Helissio has made a big impression on his two starts this season, landing a maiden by 10 lengths at Evry last month and then defeating Arbatax by four lengths in the Group 2 Prix Noailles at Longchamp on Sunday, setting a course record. The aims are the Prix Lupin and Jockey- Club, and his owner said: "After that we might go for the King George at Ascot." (Trained by E Lellouche for E Sarasola)

LOUP SOLITAIRE

three-year-old colt

by Lear Fan out of Louveterie

A surprise winner of the Grand Criterium last season but held in high regard by Fabre who describes him as "my best three-year-old and a colt of the highest quality". There is a small chance of Loup Solitaire lining up at Epsom in June, although the French Derby is a more likely option. (Trained by A Fabre for D Wildenstein)

MISS TAHITI

three-year-old filly

by Tirol out of Mini Luthe

A possible Oaks contender, Miss Tahiti is considered "top class" by Fabre and is being targeted at the French 1,000 Guineas before either the Prix de Diane or a trip to Epsom. Won the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp last season and Daniel Wildenstein owned the only filly to date to have won both the Marcel Boussac and Diane, Allez France. (Trained by A Fabre for D Wildenstein)

SPINNING WORLD

three-year-old colt by Nureyev out of Imperfect Circle

The first foal of Cheveley Park Stakes runner-up Imperfect Circle, Spinning World won a maiden at Longchamp in October and the Group 3 Prix SaintRoman at Evry the following month. Highly regarded and a possible Prix du Jockey- Club contender, although pedigree suggests a mile and a quarter may be his best trip. (Trained by J Pease for S Niarchos)

SWAIN

four-year-old colt by Nashwan out of Love Smitten

Progressive colt who won five consecutive races in 1995 and was third to Lammtarra and Freedom Cry in the Arc. With that pair retired, Swain is a candidate for all the top races over a mile and a half and could also be an Ascot Gold Cup contender. (Trained by A Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed)

TA MATETE

three-year-old colt by Caerleon out of Triple Couronne

Third on his only two-year-old start, in a maiden at Deauville, and is nominated by his trainer as a horse to follow. Very well bred - from the family of Triptych - and should stay at least 10 furlongs. (Trained by A Fabre for D Wildenstein)

Matt Chapman is a reporter with the Racing Post

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