Racing: Divine Proportions to risk unbeaten run against colts
Monday 01 August 2005
The beautiful filly hardly had to shift her elegant stride beyond third gear to notch her fifth Group One success and prime herself for the Prix Jacques le Marois back over the same straight mile at the seaside track in 13 days' time. That will be crunch-time for Divine Proportions' reputation as France's three-year-old superstar. She will face colts, including a formidable pair in her contemporary Dubawi and four-year-old Valixir, for the first time this season.
And though she queened it over the boys last year in the Prix Robert Papin and Morny, there is a world of difference between taking on teenagers and men. But certainly, against her own sex she is invincible, unlike Michelle Wie. She was 2-9 favourite yesterday after her slaughtering successes in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane and gave her supporters hardly an instant's anxiety, even though Christophe Lemaire, in the saddle, had to adopt Plan B. Slightly slow from the gate, Divine Proportions was at the back of the field as her pacemaking Pascal Bary stablemate Yellow Purple pulled the field of ten along, and Lemaire found no direct route through the pack when the time came to move.
But even being forced to steer wide right-handed in search of a gap did not interrupt his mount's inexorable rhythm. The white-blazed head was in front a furlong out and its owner swept insouciantly clear to outclass 40-1 German raider Shapira by two lengths with her pretty ears pricked.
"The race did not go exactly as I'd planned," said Lemaire, "I was hoping to keep tabs on our leader. But she is all class, and was super-relaxed and cool. This race will have done her a lot of good and was an important step forward to the Marois. And I have to once again say 'thank you' to Thierry Gillet [on Yellow Purple]. He stepped up the pace at 500 metres which helped me a lot."
Divine Proportions is upholding a fine tradition of high-class female milers in the famous two-tone blue colours, Miesque and Six Perfections being but two. Looking beyond the Marois, the latest heroine is already 5-2 ante-post favourite to follow in their hoofprints in the Breeders Cup Mile, this year at Belmont Park in October.
"Riding this filly is like sitting on a Miesque every three weeks," added Lemaire. "She's a true champion, but it does not make me nervous, I'm just thrilled to be part of her story." Before yesterday, Bary made no secret of the fact that Divine Proportions was undercooked. "We gave her a few weeks' rest after the Diane," he said. "She put on weight and there will be a margin of improvement. She will be better next time and that is exactly how I want her."
Although her pedigree indicates that Divine Proportions will stay further than the extended ten furlongs of the Diane, (her dam is by Sadler's Wells out of a sister to Shirley Heights), she is unlikely to be asked, this year at least, to tackle a mile and a half. That would rule out a race like the Prix Vermeille, target of two other of this season's fine collection of distaff stars, Irish Oaks heroine Shawanda and Alexander Goldrun, sparkling winner of the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
A Group One task, but for him a first one, may also await Saturday's other celebrity, the last-stride Stewards' Cup winner Gift Horse. "We wouldn't be fazed by going up to that level," said trainer Dandy Nicholls yesterday.
"I should think that the six furlongs of the Haydock Sprint Cup would suit him. We'll have to see what the handicapper does, though."
Yesterday at Newbury Punctilious, placed in the Epsom and Curragh Oaks last year, bounced back to winning form by two lengths in a listed 12-furlong contest, her first victory since taking the Ribblesdale Stakes more than 12 months ago. The Godolphin colourbearer holds an entry in the Yorkshire Oaks later this month and trainer Saeed Bin Suroor said: "That will have given her confidence, but we'll see how she is before deciding anything."
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