When the Prix de Diane was first run in 1843 there were, according to contemporary reports, only three females present in the members' grandstand. Yesterday, there were rather more madames and mademoiselles posing and preening beneath their big hats in the Chantilly sunshine. But the most important lady by far was out there on the track. Confidential Lady gave long-serving trainer Sir Mark Prescott his first success in a Classic as she romped home in the French version of the Oaks.
Newmarket-based Prescott was delighted, but typically self-deprecating, after the filly's ears-pricked length-and-a-half defeat of the favourite Germance and Ballydoyle raider Queen Cleopatra. "I think it's a more a relief than anything," he said, "After all, I've been trying for 35 years."
The daughter of Singspiel was only the seventh British winner of France's premier distaff contest, a sequence started by the Queen's Highclere in 1974. Confidential Lady runs in the patriotic red, white and blue of Cheveley Park Stud, but the chance of the invading rosbifs was dismissed with a Gallic shrug of contempt. Judged an 8-1 shot by bookmakers, she paid 43-1 at the pari-mutuel windows.
Sanders rode a splendid race. Confidential Lady had beaten all bar Speciosa in her local Guineas on the Rowley Mile, but got bogged down in the mud at the Curragh in the Irish equivalent. She had a lot of use made of her that day, but this time, stepping up two furlongs in trip and on much more suitable ground, the jockey deployed her talents conservatively. Unusually in France, there was a generous pace from the start as the Jean-Claude Rouget stable pacemaker Keladora towed her wide-drawn number one, Germance, towards the front rank. Another of the home side's front-line defence, Daltaya, was in the van on the rails, followed by Kieren Fallon on Queen Cleopatra, with Sanders, drawn three from the fence, Indian-file in their tracks. In the straight Confidential Lady was caught flat-footed for a beat as hitherto unbeaten Germance surged to the front, but once angled into the clear she produced a telling burst of speed to lead 200 metres out and claim the £325,255 Group 1 prize rather easily. Germance held Queen Cleopatra by a nose.
Confidential Lady would put any of the fashion-plate lovelies parading at Chantilly in the shade; the elegant dark bay, with her bold, liquid eyes is, simply, a beauty. She is also hardy, for yesterday was her third Classic in five weeks.
"We were lucky with the draw, we were lucky knowing that there would be a strong pace," added Prescott, "and we were very lucky that the filly was tough enough to take a race like this only two weeks after that slightly disappointing run in Ireland. But she'll have a bit of a breather now, which she thoroughly deserves."
None of the Maktoum brothers is likely to have ever queued in frustration for a Number 49 but the nose-to-tail buses principle applies in other departments of life. And no sooner did one leg of the US Triple Crown arrive for the Dubai family, in the form of Bernardini's Preakness Stakes in Sheikh Mohammed's colours last month, than another hoved into view as Jazil annexed the 138th Belmont Stakes in Sheikh Hamdan's colours late on Saturday night in New York.
The Seeking the Gold colt, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, had been doing all his best work late when he dead-heated for fourth place in the Kentucky Derby and, stepped up to a mile and half, duly outstayed his 11 rivals. Brought from last to first by teenager Fernando Jara, he comprehensively turned the tables on Kentucky Derby runner-up Bluegrass Cat, winning by a length. Third spot went to the runner-up's Todd Pletcher stablemate Sunriver. It was the coolest of rides from Jara, tipped as a future star. Having lost an iron shortly after the start, the 18-year-old from Panama took time to recover balance and composure, then started a mazy run through the field, arriving to challenge Bluegrass Cat on the outside at the head of the straight.
In the Manhattan Handicap on the same card, Dermot Weld's charge Grey Swallow failed narrowly to catch two ex-Europeans, Cacique and his own erstwhile stablemate Relaxed Gesture. The five-year-old finished strongly after a slow start, but went down a head and a neck.
The victory of Khaled Abdullah's Cacique, once with André Fabre, now with Bobby Frankel, gave his dam Hasili an unprecedented fourth individual Group or Grade 1 winner among her offspring. The others are the fillies Banks Hill, Intercontinental and Heat Haze.
Nap: Patavium Prince (Folkestone 3.15)
NB: Cheney Hill (Windsor 8.05)