Against an unusually competitive field for so early in the season, Helissio oozed class to win by six lengths from Le Destin. If anything, last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner was even more impressive than in last October's race, stretching his advantage over Michael Stoute's Pilsudski, who was five lengths second in the Arc, to seven and a half lengths.
Next stop for Helissio, who has won all bar one of the eight events he has contested in France, is his first race before a British audience in Epsom's Coronation Cup. If there is any audience that is. The Group One race has been inexplicably moved from Derby day and is now to be staged on the eve of the Blue Riband, on the Oaks card of 6 June. If anything can add genuine lustre to United Racecourses' campaign to promote the meeting, it is the prospect of a toe-to-toe confrontation between the two giants, Helissio and Singspiel.
Yesterday, Helissio faced not just Singspiel's able stable- companion, the Breeders Cup Turf winner Pilsudski, but that horse's pacemaker, Trojan Sea. Sweeping imperiously past the hare four furlongs out, he shrugged off brief challenges from River Bay and Pilsudski, who had second place snatched from him by Le Destin. The Paul Cole-trained Strategic Choice was fifth, with the other British challenger, Sir Mark Prescott's Last Second, seventh of eight.
Olivier Peslier, the jockey on board Helissio, who was sent off the 3- 5 favourite, was understandably enthusiastic about the performance. "This horse is even better than last year," he said. His view was endorsed by at least one impartial source with an excellent view. Michael Kinane, rider of Pilsudski, said: "Helissio was simpy brilliant today. He was just too good for us."
Later, Peter Chapple-Hyam's Heron Island stayed on for third place in the Prix de Barbeville behind the easy winner Stretarez.
n The Clive Brittain-trained, Brett Doyle-ridden Air Express, fourth in the Craven Stakes to Desert Story, won yesterday's Group Two Premio Parioli (Italian 2,000 Guineas) by a nose from Risiat in Rome yesterday. Paul Cole's Granny's Pet was fifth.
n Mark Johnston, successful in the Grosser Preis der Amag Zurich (Swiss 2,000 Guineas) last year with Double Diamond, had to settle for third in the same race yesterday. His Polar Flight was beaten by the home-trained pair, Le Chevalier and Feliciano.
NAP: Grey Kingdom