The quality of Britain's first Sunday racing programme has been variable, to say the least, but it is not a problem which seems to afflict the French.
Despite the withdrawal yesterday of Bahri, the St James's Palace Stakes winner, from the field for this weekend's Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, the remaining entry of 11 still includes five previous Group One winners, and two more who have finished second at the highest level. It is unlikely that there will be a better race over a mile in Europe this year.
There is a true international flavour too, with five British-trained entries, five more from France and one very serious challenger from Ireland. Ridgewood Pearl, who followed up her success in the Irish 1,000 Guineas in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, has been absent from competition since. None the less, she is probably the one they all have to beat.
"She's not a firm-ground horse so we gave her a break and it has freshened her up," John Oxx, Ridgewood Pearl's trainer, said yesterday. "She's been very impressive in all her races this year, but this is a different ball game. She's fit and well, but she's got to take on older horses, and they're all good. But she's never let us down before."
The British challenge on Sunday will be led by Clive Brittain's Sayyedati, winner of the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, with Missed Flight (Chris Wall), the Godolphin pair Darnay and Emperor Jones, and Sayyedati's stablemate Bin Nashwan completing the away team. Sayyedati's most recent trip to France resulted in a narrow defeat by Miss Satamixa - another of Sunday's opponents - in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, but Brittain is typically hopeful that the positions can be reversed this weekend.
"This race will be a lot stronger," the trainer says, "but we hope that will suit us. She's run in Group company all her life and the tougher the opposition, the better she runs. We were a bit unlucky at Deauville as she needs to quicken off a good pace and there wasn't anything to carry us there, but I think Sunday's race will be run to suit us."
Valanour, winner of the Group One Grand Prix de Paris, Smolensk, runner- up to Ridgewood Pearl at Ascot, Green Tune and Shaanxi will join Miss Satamixa in attempting to keep the Moulin in France, and not one of the entries would be a surprising winner. If all 11 stand their ground at today's final declaration stage, Sunday's Eurostar may be standing room only.
Bahri, however, will wait for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on 23 September to renew rivalry with the best milers, following his good run behind Halling in the 10-furlong International Stakes at York last month. "The owner does not want him to run on Sunday," Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's racing manager, said yesterday. "It has always been the intention to run at Ascot."
One horse who is expected to visit France in the near future is Leonine, a very impressive winner at York yesterday. The Group One Prix de la Salamandre at Longchamp later this month is the next target for Paul Cole's two-year- old, who is currently available at 40-1 with William Hill for next year's 2,000 Guineas.
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