Francois Rohaut, who is based at Sauvagnon, which is close to Pau in the south-west of France, is a steady producer of Group 1 performers.
Fillies especially have excelled in his care and he has won the Prix Vermeille, as well as the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, on numerous occasions. His last classic winner was Lucayan who lifted the first French Classic of the season, the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, in 2012.
Francois Rohaut also likes to travel and is a regular at the Dubai Carnival, where he has saddled a number of Purebred Arabians winners. He enjoys his regular visits to the UK, where he takes an active interest in the all-weather racing.
It is Royal Ascot though where he always tries to have at least one runner and this year looks to be no exception, as he is planning to bring over Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest victor Signs Of Blessing.
His yard is filled with horses that will carry Europe’s most important silks, including those of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Al Shaqab Racing, Gerard Augustin-Normand or the Haras de Saint Pair, to name but just a few.
Here, Rohaut talks to Liz Price about some of his horses that are likely to cross the English Channel in the near future.
4 y-o b f Canford Cliffs – Rainbow Crossing
The Al Shaqab Racing-owned filly was stepping up in class when she came to Goodwood last year for the Group 3 L’Ormarins Queens Plate Stakes for fillies and mares. However, although her only experience in pattern company dated back to three weeks earlier, when she came fourth in a listed, she was a convincing winner on this undulating track. Following a trip to Belmont for a Grade 2 race, where she finished fourth, she was then retired for the remainder of the season. This year, she has already made a winning debut in the Listed Prix Servanne over 6 furlongs.
“She won at Maisons-Laffitte and will probably go for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. It was a really good performance at Maisons-Laffitte, as she was not yet a hundred percent in form. She was blocked in until the final ½ furlong when she finally got out. She quickened really well. This was a bit of test to see if she could run at Ascot. At the same time, there are some other races in France at that time, too, but it would be nice to run her at Ascot. She is a progressive filly and we like her a lot at the yard. Like most of my horses, she prefers better ground.”
5 y-o ch h Halling – Mokaraba
The Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Murafej is lightly raced, but has some big targets this year. A handicapper, he has already run three times this season. Following a victory over 2 miles on the all-weather, he was last seen in the slightly shorter Group 3 Prix de Barbeville at Chantilly, where he finished sixth behind Marmelo.
“He won an important handicap at Chantilly by several lengths. He really dominated that day. I then ran him in the Group 3 at Chantilly, but he disappointed a bit. We entered him in that race to see how he would handle the turf, but he doesn’t stay the trip on that surface. 1m 7 furlongs is no problem on the all-weather, but not on the turf. I was probably presumptuous to enter him in the Ascot Gold Cup. We will either now drop him back in trip or go back to the all-weather.”
4 y-o ch c Speightstown – Flip Flop
Qurbaan had an early start to the season, as he is mainly campaigned on the all-weather. That is not to say that he can’t do well on the turf, as he showed last year when he was the runner-up in a listed race at Chantilly. This season, he travelled over to Lingfield where he finished fifth in the Sunbets All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes.
“We didn’t have the best of runs at Lingfield, but that’s racing. He came back all right and that is the main thing. I think he might run in the Grand Prix de Bordeaux next. I would like to try him over further than the mile and put him back on the turf. A mile and a quarter race on good ground would be a good option. The Grand Prix de Bordeaux is a listed and forms part of the “Defi du Galop”, which is a good series to toughen up your horses.”
SIGNS OF BLESSING
6 y-o b g Invincible Spirit – Sun Bittern
Signs Of Blessing really came into himself last year when he finished third to Twilight Son in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Only half a length was between him, the winner and runner-up, Gold Fun. Hence, it shouldn’t have really come as a surprise when a month later, he stormed to victory in the slightly longer Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. He returned to Ascot for the British Champions Sprint Stakes, where he finished fourth, before ending his season with a fifth place in the Hong Kong Sprint Cup.
“Signs Of Blessing took a while this year to find his form. But his last bit of work was very convincing and so we decided to take him to Hong Kong. However, at the last minute he ran a temperature and we decided not to go. He is now in great form and will make his seasonal reappearance in the Prix de St Georges at Deauville on the day of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, on the 13th of May. It is a Group 3 race. And then he will come back to Ascot. He is entered in the King’s Stand Stakes and in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. We haven’t decided yet where he will run, but I am tending towards the Diamond Jubilee. We will then pursue the same programme as last year, so Prix Maurice de Gheest. And if that works out, we will try and take him to Australia. The team is up for it and it could be a nice challenge. We shall see.”
3 y-o ch f Rip Van Winkle – Candicans
Layali has already run an astonishing four times this season. She ran twice on the all-weather track at Cagnes-sur-Mer in the winter, where she won once before being switched to turf at Saint-Cloud in March. Then, at the end of April, she stepped up in category in the 1m 2 ½ f Listed Prix Caravelle at Toulouse, where she was beaten two lengths by Onthemoonagain.
“She won at Cagnes and then she disappointed at Saint-Cloud, when she only finished fourth. She slipped in the first bend though and nearly came down. That was not a good experience for her. I’m glad she ran well on her last start in the listed and she will be even better when she runs over a mile and a half. She will win her listed and I think she will be able to run in the Group races at the end of the season.”
3 y-o b f Redout’s Choice – Benzolina
Wajnah is unbeaten in two starts. As a two-year-old, she only ran once, when she won a maiden over the mile at Bordeaux. This season, she won a conditions race, again over the mile at Bordeaux, but this time she ran in heavy ground.
“She has run twice and won twice. The Bordeaux form of her last start at Bordeaux is very good, as the runner-up La Sardane went on to finish second in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte and the third placed filly Silver Storm was third in the Group 3 Prix Imprudence behind Via Ravenna. Wajnah is already in Deauville where she is preparing either the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches or the Prix Saint-Alary. She had worked so well back home at Pau and should have run in the Prix Vanteaux. But she had a little foot problem on the day before the race, which stopped us from running. However, she has worked so well recently that I would like to run her in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. She is entered in the Prix de Diane Longines, in the Coronation Stakes at Ascot. She gets lots of stamina from her dam side. She is really a good looking filly and deserves to run in the Poule.”
3 y-o b f Dansili – Waldjagd
Waldfee made her racecourse debut at the end of April when she lifted a 9-furlong maiden at the small racecourse of Salon-de-Provence. She doesn’t hold any Classic entries.
“She is by Dansili and quite a late developer. We like her a lot at the yard and we believe that she can go a long way. She did win very easily the other day at Salon. This was a good start and I would not be surprise if she gets black type in the near future. The dam has a lot of stamina and I think that she will run over a mile or a mile and a quarter.