Racing: Goldmine in a rich seam of talent: Seven of Britain's top races fell to French horses during the 1993 Flat season and as the tempo builds towards this year's premier prizes Matt Chapman pinpoints the leading cross-Channel challengers

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The Independent Online
BETWEEN them, Zafonic, Intrepidity, Kingmambo, Bigstone, Gold Splash and Hatoof won seven of Britain's richest prizes last season and, with leading owners such as Khalid Abdullah and the Maktoum family continuing to patronise Chantilly stables, the French have every chance of improving on that record this year.

Andre Fabre and Francois Boutin continue to dominate the training ranks, but Criquette Head, John Hammond and the up-and-coming Elie Lellouche are also to be feared in the main events. In 1993, French-trained horses won 28 (38.36 per cent) of Europe's 73 Group One races, of which nine were trained by Fabre and eight by Boutin.

Boutin handled three juveniles, East Of The Moon, Coup De Genie and Psychobbable, who in the autumn looked likely Classic contenders. East Of The Moon is still near the top of the betting for the 1,000 Guineas, but suffered from a minor knee problem after her debut win and was subsequently rested; Coup De Genie looked a rare talent with a scintillating win in the Prix de la Salamandre, but flopped in the Prix Marcel Boussac and bled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies; Psychobabble's limitations were exposed when he was only sixth behind Grand Lodge in the Dewhurst Stakes. Doubts clearly linger over the Boutin trio, but 12 horses who look certain to progress in 1994 are:

BIGSTONE: four-year-old colt by Last Tycoon out of Batave

Bigstone was preceded only by Zafonic in the miling division last year and his wins in the Sussex Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes proved him to be top class. Seems at his best with cut in the ground. (Trained by E Lellouche for D Wildenstein)

DOLPHIN STREET: four-year-old colt by Bluebird out of Or Vision

Capable at distances from six furlongs to a mile, Dolphin Street improved through last year. A fine third behind College Chapel at Royal Ascot, he excelled in beating the consistent Ski Paradise in Longchamp's Prix de la Foret. A good traveller who may take on Sayyedati in Japan on 23 April, Dolphin Street can take high order among the sprinters. (J Hammond for S Niarchos)

FADEYEV: three-year-old colt by Nureyev out of Skating

Fadeyev was beaten on his debut before winning a maiden, but on his final start recorded an excellent success in the Prix Thomas Bryon over a mile at Saint-Cloud. He stood out in a smart field that day and an entry for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas), but not the Prix du Jockey- Club (French Derby), suggests a mile will be his trip. (A Fabre for Maktoum Al Maktoum)

GARZA: three-year-old filly by Kris out of Gabina

Won her only start, a maiden at Maisons-Laffitte in October, when she impressed in both physique and attitude. Her dam won the 1989 Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs and a mile could prove Garza's best trip. Entries include the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches and the German 1,000 Guineas. (A Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed)

GOLDMINE: three-year-old colt by Goldneyev out of Green Valley

Beaten a short-head by Sunshack at Longchamp in September, Goldmine lost his maiden status over a mile at Saint-Cloud the next month. His sire comes from the same family as last year's Royal Ascot winner Gold Splash. 'Goldmine is strongly built and has done extremely well over the winter. He's a nice prospect who'll have a prep race before the Poule d'Essai des Poulains,' his trainer, says. (C Head for J Wertheimer)

LORD FELIX: three-year-old colt by Storm Cat out of Princess S

'A very nice juvenile who has progressed well and has been entered for all the Classics,' is how John Hammond describes Lord Felix. Unplaced on his debut, Lord Felix showed marked improvement when easily accounting for six rivals in a maiden at Maisons-Laffitte in October. (J Hammond for M Charlton)

LOST WORLD: three-year-old colt by Last Tycoon out of Last Tango

'An excellent horse, certainly a champion, who will go for the 2,000 Guineas or the Poule d'Essai des Poulains,' his owner has said. Like his half- brother Fijar Tango in 1987, Lost World won France's premier event for juveniles, the Grand Criterium, at Longchamp in October. He holds an entry for the Derby. (E Lellouche for D Wildenstein).

RAINTRAP: four-year-old colt by Rainbow Quest out of Suntrap

In seven starts last year, Raintrap won five and finished runner-up on the other two. Vastly improved, he stayed on powerfully for a short-head victory from Mashaallah in the Prix Royal-Oak in October. Sure to contest the top staying events, he has every chance of becoming champion in that sphere. (A Fabre for K Abdullah)

SIGNE DIVIN: three-year-old colt by Bering out of Lumen Dei

A promising second to Lost World in the Grand Criterium was followed by an easy win over Paul Cole's Carmot in the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. 'He is being prepared for the 2,000 Guineas and I hope he will become my first winner in England,' his owner said. Signe Divin inherits speed from his dam and may be best between eight and 10 furlongs. (A Fabre for P de Moussac)

SUNSHACK: three-year-old colt by Rainbow Quest out of Suntrap

A full-brother to Raintrap, Sunshack is one of eight Fabre entries for the Derby. He fulfilled his potential when beating Zindari, a previous pattern race winner who was fourth to Lost World in the Grand Criterium, by an effortless four lengths in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 10 furlongs and has outstanding claims for the Prix du Jockey-Club or Derby. (A Fabre for K Abdullah)

THREE ANGELS: three-year-old filly by Halo out of Three Troikas

Showed a devastating turn of foot to grab a head victory in the Prix des Reservoirs in October. With an Arc winner as her dam, her stamina seems assured. (F Boutin for W Young)

VALDARA: three-year-old fillyx by Darshaan out of Valverda

Won a mile maiden at Longchamp and met trouble in running when a fast-finishing third to Three Angels in the Prix des Reservois. Her sire, a Prix du Jockey-Club winner, is an influence for stamina and Valvarda should certainly stay well enough to contest the middle-distance Classics. (A Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed)

(Photograph omitted)