Racing: British make a splash at Deauville

By Sue Montgomery
A GIRLS' day out at the seaside in France yesterday brought mixed fortunes for the trippers. With a brace of Group Two fillies' prizes on offer on the first Sunday of the Deauville season, Leggera beat Tuning and Rambling Rose for a British clean sweep in the Prix de Pomone, but only Fizzed could make the frame in the Prix d'Astarte, with her compatriots Lovers Knot and Lilli Claire well behind.

The rain-softened ground and extended mile and five furlongs - a longer distance than she had tackled before - were entirely to the liking of the John Dunlop-trained Leggera, a rangy daughter of Sadler's Wells. Olivier Doleuze settled her in third behind Tuning and Rambling Rose but once he released the brakes a quarter of a mile out neither rival could cope as Leggera, the outsider of six at 11-1, powered away for a five-length win. Tuning (Henry Cecil) outstayed Rambling Rose (Sir Michael Stoute) by two.

It was the three-year-old's first win this season, but she had posted some good efforts. And the value of one of them was revealed an hour and a half after she passed the post when her conqueror in the German Oaks, Elle Danzig, got up by a nose to beat older colts (including Michael Jarvis's fifth-placed Polar Prince) in the Group One Bayerisches Zuchtrennen in Munich.

Rambling Rose, who had finished in front of Leggera in the Lancashire Oaks, was the first of the raiders to crack and will next drop back in distance for York's Galtres Stakes.

Although Fizzed could finish only second under Michael Hills in the Prix d'Astarte, it was a gallant failure. The Efisio filly, from Mark Johnston's in-form yard, attempted to make all in the mile contest and was caught only inside the last half-furlong by Daniel Smaga's Miss Berbere, who scored by three-quarters of a length.

Another of the home side, Khumba Mela, was two lengths third but Rambling Rose's stablemate Lovers Knot, so impressive when she won the British equivalent of the race, the Falmouth Stakes, at Newmarket last month, was only sixth, one spot ahead of David Elsworth's Lilli Claire.

Johnston has more travel plans for Fizzed. "She is a filly with a high cruising speed," he said, "and could be a suitable type for the United States." The Prix de la Foret and the Hong Kong International Bowl could also be on her agenda.

Though the weekend weather was as unseasonal across the Channel as here in Britain, the phenomenon of Deauville in August is now under way. The Normandy resort becomes the sporting and social centre of France during the month; Chantilly-sur-Mer with gold-and-diamond knobs and a pair of designer espadrilles on.

The truly dedicated will find it is possible to go racing either at the leafy half-timbered town track - elegant but not stuffy, we are on holiday after all - or neighbouring Clairefontaine, even more relaxed with its summer jumping and home, in the outdoor restaurant, of possibly the best soles and pommes vapeurs on the coast, on all but six days during the month.

Normandy is the centre of France's breeding industry - you will, allegedly, pass the gate to a stud farm every four kilometres - and one of the largest in the departement, the Niarchos family establishment, gives the headline writers a nightmare title for Deauville's principal race, the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois, a contest which can go a long way to deciding the European miling champion. The produce of studs major and minor are offered for sale at the Agence Francaise yearling auction towards the end of the month; notable names through the ring include three Arc winners, Helissio, Subotica and Urban Sea, and one of the favourites for this year's renewal, Dream Well.

Although Deauville does attract the type who promenades sur les planches carrying a small silky dog as a fashion accessory, for the ordinary mortal it costs little to go racing and nothing at all to stroll round the pretty, stylish town, visit the sales or walk on the seemingly endless beach and watch the strings of racehorses and polo ponies splashing happily in the waves. For free, you can dream well indeed.