Racing: Dalakhani forces a British and Irish retreat from Paris

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They have heard his giant footprints from around the corner, seen the ominous shadow cast and, in the circumstances, have acted quite naturally. Most of Dalakhani's prospective challengers in tomorrow's Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly have fled for the hills.

Thus we will witness a French Derby composed exclusively of domestic horses, just seven of those and one of their number Dalakhani's regular pacemaker in Diyapour. It all looks one-sided in more than a single sense.

Despite the shallow nature of this Classic, Dalakhani provides something conspicuously absent from Epsom calculations. Alain de Royer-Dupre's dark grey brings overwhelming omnipotence to the table. If, as is expected of a long odds-on shot, he wins easily, the debate about the merits of which is the best middle-distance Classic colt on this Continent will rage far longer than either this weekend and next Saturday's Blue Riband. It may be that a meeting of the jurisdictions in the Irish Derby will decide who wears the pan-European crown.

Dalakhani has followed an unswerving line. His unbeaten, five-race career has culminated in the traditional trials for the French Derby in the Prix Greffulhe followed by the Prix Lupin. His task now is to execute a double for his owner, the Aga Khan, who also has the much-fancied Alamshar to twirl around Tattenham Corner in seven days' time.

So what is there to beat today? Alberto Giacometti and Balestrini, who were third and fourth respectively in the Lupin, are among those who have left screaming for the high ground and will take their chance instead next Saturday across the Surrey Downs.

André Fabre has won both French Classics thus far this season - the Poule d'Essai des Poulains with Clodovil and the Pouliches with Musical Chimes - but last won the Jockey Club six years ago with Peintre Celebre. At least he dares to challenge.

This time round, little Napoleon saddles Papineau, the mount of Frankie Dettori and a Singspiel half-brother to the 1997 Derby runner-up and St Leger winner, Silver Patriarch. Those genes suggest he will stay this trip at least once, and, also in his favour, Papineau won the Prix de l'Avre last time, a race won by Sulamani en route to Chantilly success last year.

Such is the superiority of Dalakhani, who is to be ridden by one of the few French-based jockeys still in the black in Britain, the precocious Christophe Soumillon, that his closest rival in the betting is Super Celebre, coincidentally a son of Peintre Celebre, and a colt who was cuffed in the Lupin.

Elsewhere on the card, there is some sort of British input into the debate. Our Teddy and Audience have been declared for the Group One Prix Jean Prat with Oliver Peslier down to partner the George Margarson-trained former and Eric Saint-Martin on William Haggas's latter. Dettori has been booked to ride the Italian 2,000 Guineas second, Prince Kirk, by Pisa trainer Emilio Borromeo.

This foreign trio will not take away easy gifts. There is some smart opposition on the home ramparts, notably Marshall, Art Moderne, Tashkandi, Vespone and Vadalix, in the eight-runner, nine-furlong contest.

There are a further three British runners in the Group Two Prix du Gros Chene over five furlongs, including the David Nicholls-trained Captain Rio, yet another ride for Dettori. Lady Dominatrix (Nerys Dutfield) and The Trader (Michael Blanshard) also join the party, with Paul Doe and Fergus Sweeney respectively in the saddle.

Zipping and Swedish Shave may prove the best of a tough domestic division, which also includes class acts such as Porlezza, Zinziberine and Ela Merici.

Fabre's Intercontinental, who appeared not to get the trip when third in the 1,000 Guineas over the Rowley Mile, seeks consolation for her fine Newmarket performance in the Group Two Prix de Sandringham. Once again the journey is eight furlongs, but the more leisurely development of French races could help the filly get home.

The Listed Prix La Moskowa over a mile and seven furlongs on the same afternoon has attracted John Gosden's Windermere and the Peter Harris-trained Barathea Blazer. They will be ridden by Dettori and Soumillon respectively.

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