Racing: Prince of rides for Loder

Sue Montgomery looks at the British raiders trying to end a barren spell in France
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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S second XI trot out in Paris this afternoon in search of a trophy that rarely comes back across the Channel. The Poule d'Essai des Poulains - the Gallic version of the 2,000 Guineas - has left French shores only twice since the Second World War, courtesy of Recitation in 1981 and Vettori three years ago. The reasons are not hard to fathom; the real thing at Newmarket carries the most prestige of the European Guineas and the first team are generally on duty there. And the best of the French usually stay at home to defend their own unless they are thought to be exceptional.

The defeat of France's supposed crack, Xaar, two weeks ago has doubtless prompted today's mass invasion. The home side can muster only six of the 13 runners for the Group One contest.

The team of raiders is led by Desert Prince, whose trainer, David Loder, will presumably be hoping to become well acquainted with French winners' circles after his much-publicised move to Evry later this year. Ironically, Desert Prince is owned by Edward St George whom the ambitious, talented Loder is deserting for Godolphin.

The form of the Green Desert colt's win in the Free Handicap last month was boosted when the runner-up, Trans Island, passed the post first in the Italian Guineas. Desert Prince will be ridden by a local jockey, Sylvain Guillot, who made his acquaintance in a spin at Newmarket on Friday morning.

As lightly raced types, the Godolphin candidates, Altibr and Zaya, have similar credentials to the Dubai-based operation's Vettori. They are unlikely to find similar moderate opposition, however. Muhtathir, trained by John Gosden, is dropping back to a mile after failing to stay 10 furlongs last time out and has already turned in a fine performance over Long-champ's turning mile when he chased home Second Empire last autumn.

Criquette Head has made no secret of the high regard in which she holds the likely favourite, With The Flow. The colt - whose sire, Irish River, won the race in 1979 and whose brother River Mist was disqualified in 1985 - took his unbeaten run to three when he trounced Loudeac and today's rival Pinmix over the course and distance three weeks ago, and should confirm the form.

Only three raiders oppose the locals - of whom Zalaiyka, unbeaten in her last three outings, is expected to prove the best - in the fillies' Classic, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. Elshamms, from Alec Stewart's Newmarket yard, is the best of them on paper after her fourth in the Nell Gwyn, but both La Nuit Rose, representing Godolphin, and Kincara Palace, from Aidan O'Brien's formidable squad, have more scope for progress.

Derby clues may emerge from the afternoon's final Group One race, all three of which will be shown on BBC2 on Sunday Grandstand. The Prix Lupin has attracted just five runners, but three of them - Mudeer, Daymarti and Croco Rouge - hold the Epsom engagement.

Croco Rouge, who is trained by Pascal Bary, is an exciting prospect, judged on the turn of foot he demonstrated to win the Prix Greffulhe last month on just his third public appearance. An impressive display by the Rainbow Quest colt is sure to push him to the forefront of the Derby market. His main home-based rival should be his paternal half-brother, Special Quest, the narrow winner of the Prix Noailles.

Mudeer, representing Godolphin, was beaten only a short-head by Saratoga Springs in last year's Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and will be testing the middle-distance Classic water on behalf of his better-regarded stablemates Cape Verdi and City Honours.