Longchamp throws up a Royal prospect to savour
The wretched weather is giving an unhappily literal quality to the way the domestic programme treads water between Epsom and Royal Ascot. The card at Salisbury today is subject to a morning inspection, and likewise the turf races at Lingfield. And while the French did contrive a fleeting moment of quality yesterday, deteriorating conditions locally may also limit its significance.
On the face of it, you might argue that another reverse for Meandre confirms that he has reached a disappointing plateau. On the other hand, it may simply be that he does not handle the mud. After all, his big break as a three-year-old had come on fast ground in the Grand Prix de Paris last summer. His trainer André Fabre, pictured, had blamed the soft going when Meandre managed only fourth on his return at Newmarket last month, and yesterday he fared little better when again made hot favourite for a Group Three race over 10 furlongs at Longchamp.
Poet, the English raider, surely set too strong a pace before dropping away into a distant fourth of six. But while Meandre looked short of acceleration at this trip, No Risk At All led on the bridle before dashing away by three and a half lengths, Meandre in turn pulling miles clear of the rest.
Whatever the current state of play with his victim, it might prove hasty to dismiss the winner as a legitimate new force for the top middle-distance prizes. His trainer, Jean-Paul Gallorini, is better known for his success with jumpers, and No Risk At All had been treated as a mystifying interloper when beaten less than two lengths when fourth in the Prix d'Ispahan on his previous start.
That day he finished very strongly, on to the heels of two proven Group One operators in Cirrus Des Aigles and Planteur, and his relish for the extra furlong yesterday immediately prompted Gallorini to start talking in terms of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe itself.
Indeed, his jockey Ioritz Mendizabal said that No Risk At All would typically work harder on the gallops of a morning that in winning yesterday and, while acknowledging he enjoyed the ground, stressed his relentless improvement.
Regardless of its substance, his victory certainly did no harm to the reputation of Golden Lilac, whose performance in winning the Prix d'Ispahan prompted Fabre to salute her as unquestionably the best filly he has ever trained.
Fabre says she was sick when beaten for the only time in her career, on her final start at three, and may supplement her to the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot tomorrow week. That is already a target for Carlton House and So You Think, and a prospect to brighten even the dampest summer.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Perfect Mission (9.0 Brighton)
Should come on for a recent run, after a break, but may also prove better back at this shorter trip after going rather freely over a mile.
Next best: Chignon (8.30 Brighton)
Seven Veils is an obvious banana-skin, but this one proved ahead of her initial rating over course and distance last time and, just 5lb higher here, remains ahead of the game.
One to watch: High Jinks (James Fanshawe) confirmed himself a horse to follow when pulling the runner-up a long way clear at Newmarket on Saturday and will do better still when raised in trip.
Where the money's going: Ortensia is 5-1 from 6s with William Hill for the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot next week, while Society Rock has been cut to 12-1 from 14s for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
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