RACING: Revoque quashes French defence

COMMENTARY

France has been giving away juvenile Group races like suntans this season and the generosity continued at Longchamp yesterday when the Grand Criterium was surrendered to Peter Chapple-Hyam's Revoque.

Visitors from Britain have now threatened the entente cordiale by capturing every Group One or Group Two two-year-old contest this year, a sequence which has included Bahamian Bounty in the Prix Morny, Ryafan's Prix Marcel Boussac and Revoque himself, in the Prix de la Salamandre.

The colt's victory yesterday terminated another run, however, that of his trainer's despicable ill-fortune at Longchamp. Chappple-Hyam's record at the track has suggested that at some point, while on holiday in a French colony, he must have trodden on a witch doctor's stethoscope. Only last weekend, Monze was disqualified from the Prix de Conde and Polaris Flight fatally injured in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

For once, though, the gods relented as Revoque finished two lengths ahead of Criquette Head's Majorien, with King Sound, the representative of John Gosden, six lengths back in third. Chapple-Hyam said: "Surely Revoque must be the best two-year-old in Europe now. Once this horse gets into gear it's all over." John Reid, the winning jockey, reported: "I was always going easily."

This display was enough to pull the unbeaten colt into 7-1 second favouritism behind Bahhare for next year's 2,000 Guineas. King Sound's effort kept him at 25-1 with Hills for the Derby. Gosden was far from disconsolate.

The principal reason for France's lack of success with their youngsters has been the relatively barren campaign of their leading trainer, Andre Fabre. Bacteria came to visit the yard of the little general early in the season, and recuperation has been less than swift. Only one of Fabre's 100-plus battery of two-year-olds has been first past the post in a Group race.

While France is not apparently gifted with much two-year-old talent, it must be observed that the financial structure of the sport across the Channel does not place as much emphasis on a quick return for investment. "There are not so many good two-year-olds in France this year," Olivier Peslier, who was beaten on Olympic Majesty in the Grand Criterium, said. "But in France they are trained differently, too. The young horses in England are always stronger."

While there may be a disparity in the young bloodstock, Peslier sees no inferiority in his nation's young jockeys. He is 25 winners ahead of Thierry Jarnet in his quest for a first Cravache d'Or (the French jockeys' title) and the Peslier chest remains puffed up from last Sunday's extravagant Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victory on Helissio. Despite the domestic consideration, Peslier will travel to ride in Britain on non-race days in France. He is also soon to get satellite racing coverage pumped into his French home, so he can study prospective mounts.

Peslier's arrival on these shores has hardly had our boys getting the bunting out (they get very protective over "their" rides, you know) and it must be said he has hardly been a deferential figure to the jockeys from Blighty.

The Frenchman does a savage pastiche of Pat Eddery's bobbing technique in a finish, and, after he had temporarily lowered Frankie Dettori's colours last Sunday, he made a movement with his forefinger that Sweeney Todd used to effect with a razor over the throats of his unfortunate clients.

"In England you have Frankie Dettori, in France you have me," he said, with the sort of confrontional message for which promoters would starve their children.

When discussing British racing in general, Peslier has an appraisal disturbingly close to what continentals say about our football. "It's harder here for the body," he says, "but there are not so many tactics."

If Peslier does ride more frequently on our courses, there may be an opportunity to review the garish celebrations from the saddle he conducted before the Arc was over. Some of our traditionalists thought this sort of pantomime was best left to the equestrian figures who usually wear glittering, tasselled bikinis. Peslier thought it was quite fun.

"I got a big surprise when I looked back 100 metres out and I knew it was impossible to lose," he said. "I can do this sort of thing because I know this horse, he is a horse I ride every day, and he is a three-year- old. He is not a jumping horse, a two-year-old or a horse like Moonax. I sit very tightly and do not think about moving on them."

1997 2,000 GUINEAS: Ladbrokes: 5-1 Bahhare, 8-1 Revoque, 10-1 Indiscreet, 14-1 Putra, 16-1 Entrepreneur, 20-1 Bahamian Bounty, Benny The Dip & Zamindar. William Hill: 5-1 Bahhare, 7-1 Revoque, 12-1 Indiscreet, 16-1 Putra & Zamindar.

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