This weekend is a tale of two pretties. Tomorrow at Deauville the French aristocrat Divine Proportions lays her unbeaten nine-race sequence on the line in the Prix Jacques le Marois and this afternoon at Newbury the people's princess, Attraction, will be bidding to get her career back on track in the Hungerford Stakes.
To run nine times without defeat is no mean feat, achieved by fewer than 50 horses in the entire three centuries-plus history of the sport worldwide. Of those trained in France, Divine Proportions' target is now the 1934 Arc hero Brantome's run of 11. The Gallic record holder is the 1903-foaled Prestige on 16, whose victories included the Prix de la Forêt at two.
The beautiful Pascal Bary-trained filly faces just five rivals in the Prix Jacques le Marois , but her task is a daunting one. Having summarily disposed of her own sex in her four three-year-old outings, including two Classics, she now takes on the boys for the first time this year.
The Niarchos family colourbearer is odds-on to beat them but in Dubawi, Valixir and Whipper, she faces some trio, the winners of 18 races between them, among them seven Group Ones.
Dubawi, for the Godolphin team, represents this year's colts' Classic form, having won the Irish 2,000 Guineas and run a fine third, out of his distance, in the Derby. Valixir is the improving four-year-old, having claimed the scalp of Rakti on his drop back to a mile in the Queen Anne Stakes at York's royal meeting. His contemporary Whipper, closely related to Divine Proportions (they are out of the same mare by full-brother sires), is the course specialist; he won the race last year and warmed up six days ago with a third victory at his favourite venue.
With two pacemakers in the field - Semarang for the filly, Council Member for Dubawi - the gallop will be true and tomorrow's encounter will be one of the races of the season. Divine Proportions (2.15), who will have been physically and mentally sharpened by her course-and-distance outing 13 days ago, can notch her sixth Group One success.
This afternoon, the heart says Attraction but the head dictates otherwise. Mark Johnston's charge, with her unconventional windmilling gallop action, her catch-me-if-you-can style and intelligent outlook, charmed racegoers last term.
But she has not raced since flopping in Hong Kong in May, is returning from injury, and must give weight to all her 10 rivals and, although she has all the class, the percentage call may be to look elsewhere.
Nayyir, with five Group One placings, should be a consideration in Group Three company, but the rather frustrating seven-year-old has not won for more than two years and at his age is hardly improving. The Jeremy Noseda-trained four-year-old Majors Cast (2.50), however, seems on an upward curve. He made marked progress over the winter and spring in Dubai and then, after long break, produced an eyecatching effort when third to Court Masterpiece in a better race over today's trip at Goodwood last month.
However Dubawi fares tomorrow, the Godolphin team should be on the mark today with Mamool (3.25) in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury. The six-year-old hurt himself in last year's Melbourne Cup but showed no ill effects on his comeback run at Goodwood, where he gave weight and a tenacious beating to a smart yardstick in Dubai Success, and the step back up in trip should suit him fine.
Gamut, with whom he is closely matched, must be the danger, but would surely appreciate more cut in the ground. Mubtaker is going for his fourth successive win in the Group Two contest, but now seems a shadow of the horse who beat all bar Dalakhani in the Arc two years ago.
Like Attraction, the two-year-old filly Strut (2.10) is decidedly deficient in the leg department as far as ideal conformation goes. But hers, too, can move to pretty good effect and she can confirm the favourable impression she made at Windsor a week ago. Still with the youngest generation, the seven-furlong maiden has produced some likely types in the past - Etlaala won last year - and a repeat for his stable with Mashaahed (1.35) in the first division would be no surprise.
The day's note of whimsy is supplied at Newmarket, where 14 line up for the charge of the white brigade that is the Grey Horse Handicap, restricted to horses of its eponymous colour, and before those of a politically correct bent get twitchy, bays and browns had their equivalent race at the track last night. Paris Bell (2.35) is not straightforward but may be good enough in this company and any rain will help his cause.
Nap: Glasshoughton (Newmarket 3.40)
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