Even if the likes of Snurge, Drum Taps and Mashaallah had stood their ground the Geoffrey Freer would have finished a distant second in the contest to be the weekend's main attraction. That distinction falls to Deauville's Prix Jacques le Marois in which the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas winners, Hatoof and Rodrigo De Triano, meet for the first time.
Peter Chapple-Hyam has been particularly forthright about the prospects of Rodrigo De Triano, whom he believes has been working better than any horse he has seen in his time at Manton stables. While it is easy to be carried along by the young trainer's enthusiasm, it should be borne in mind that tomorrow's race is one of the most competitive mile races of the season and with John Dunlop's Lahib and Paul Cole's Dilum in the field, Rodrigo De Triano may not even emerge best of the five British challengers, a group completed by Sikeston and Hazm.
A more important sign than a GB suffix when searching for the winner is to inspect the runners trained by Francois Boutin and owned by Stavros Niarchos. Boutin has saddled the winner in four of the last five years, three of which were owned by Niarchos, whose stud sponsors the race - anyone intending to write Rodrigo De Triano to win the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois on a betting slip should ensure they have enough ink in their pen first.
Exit To Nowhere and the improving filly Hydro Calido are the two to fit the Boutin/Niarchos criteria and the latter, with Freddie Head on board, may be the one. Certainly, they have nothing to fear from the Vincent O'Brien- trained El Prado who has been expensively supplemented for the race but looked woefully slow on his only start this year.
Paul Cole is, as usual, the most vigorous British trainer in search of money abroad. He has runners in five separate events and stands to win over pounds 376,000 if Dilum, Half A Tick and Great Palm at Deauville, and Snurge and Jape in Germany, are all victorious.
Half A Tick faces opposition from Henry Cecil's Perpendicular and from Corrupt, who will be making his debut for Chapple-Hyam in tomorrow's six-runner Prix Gontaut-Biron. Great Palm has Harry Thomson Jones's Zaahi, Willie Jarvis's Sharpitor and Chapple- Hyam's Feminine Wiles to beat in today's Prix Guillaume d'Ornano.
But the races that have shrivelled the Geoffrey Freer field are in Germany where Snurge and John Gosden's Mashaallah pursue a first prize of pounds 82,456 in the Aral- Pokal at Gelsenkirchen and Jape, Beyton and Captain Horatius chase pounds 140,351 in the Europa Championnat also over 12 furlongs at Hoppegarten. The first job on Monday should be to dope test the committee that devised the European Pattern-race system.
The Newbury race is worth pounds 43,976 to the winner and, despite the paucity of runners should not lack excitement as Rock Hopper and Sapience are a closely matched pair. They have come across each other on all six outings this year with success equally divided. Sapience (3.00) has emerged best in their last two encounters and that trend can continue, while Chatterberry (2.00), and Risk Master (2.30) are others worth support.
Prix Jacques Le Marois: Lahib (W Carson), Sikeston (-), Misil (L Dettori), Exit To Nowhere (C Asmussen), Star Of Cozzene (-), Hazm (R Hills), Kitwood (Pat Eddery), Lion Cavern (T Jarnet), Dilum (A Munro), El Prado (C Roche), Rodrigo De Triano (L Piggott), Take Risks (M Boutin), Cardoun (D Boeuf), Hatoof (W R Swinburn), Hydro Calido (F Head).
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