Laurent Barbarin's French Classics horses to follow

Our resident French racing expert, Laurent Barbarin shortlists six more horses to look out for in the second of a three-part special ahead of French racing's return on Monday - live on Sky Sports Racing.

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Let’s continue our review of some promising French-trained three-year-olds, after last week’s opening piece, and I will start here with Ecrivain.

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ECRIVAIN
3yo chestnut colt; Lope De Vega (IRE) - Sapphire Pendant (IRE) (Danehill Dancer) (IRE)
Trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias

He went into the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère on the back of two victories including the Group 3 Prix des Chênes. I’m not sure the ground favoured him in the Group 1 contest and although he was not beaten far, I expected him to finish better than fourth.

He is by Lope De Vega who won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the French Derby but he had a bit more stamina on the dam’s side than Ecrivain has. Being trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias, he has not been pushed too hard at two and will have plenty more to offer this season, which is promising.

The Wertheimer’s horse is in the very exciting Prix de Fontainebleau this Monday coming (May 11th) and takes on seven opponents. Judged on last year, he must have a good each-way chance.

MARIETA
3yo bay filly; Siyouni (FR) - Macarella (IRE) (Shamardal) (USA)
Trained by Mauricio Delcher-Sanchez

Marieta is one of the most difficult horses to predict for the Classic season at this stage. She has a lot of ability but showed limited stamina last year. Her handler Mauricio Delcher-Sanchez has two ways to bring her back into action this season. She will either make her re-entry in the Listed Prix Du Pont Neuf over 7f on May 14th (against the colts) at ParisLongchamp and then go for the French 1000 Guineas on June 1st, or, go straight for the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches without any prep-race.

I thought she ran great in the Marcel Boussac for the majority of the contest, but then she really struggled to get home but still managed to keep the second spot. We shall know soon if she is a Maurice De Gheest type of horse, essentially a sprinter, or a miler.

I think that I have already made my mind… I also think she’d be an absolute star on the American turf, over one or two turns.

PAO ALTO
3yo chestnut colt; Intello (GER) - Peaceful Love (GER) (Dashing Blade) (GB)
Trained by Christophe Ferland

I do not live too far from La Teste racecourse which also includes the training facilities and I must admit that I just love the place, the atmosphere and the nearby sea. Christophe Ferland has trained Group 1 winners Dabirsim and Indonesienne there and has come up with nice horses every single year since he started his training career at La Teste in 2007.

One of his nicest horse for this year is Pao Alto who was a very impressive winner of a Listed race at Bordeaux last back end. Although he was up against moderate opposition, his acceleration was eye-catching and it is no surprise to see him entered in the Prix La Force on May 14th at ParisLongchamp, in a contest that will be for many the first step leading to the French Derby that will be run on July 5th.

Although he still is hard to assess, it is interesting to note that he progressed with every start last year. You can expect him to be fit and ready next Thursday!

KETIL
3yo colt; Karakontie (JPN) - Matroshka (IRE) (Red Ransom) (USA)
Trained by Pascal Bary

Another horse caught my attention last year is the Niarchos-owned Ketil. I very much enjoyed watching him when he scored first-time out (ahead of Ocean Atlantique) at Saint-Cloud.

He subsequently flopped at Deauville but that was on very testing ground and he can be forgiven this below-par effort. He soon bounced back and won his third start with ease on the fibresand one month later. He has all the Classic entries and is well-regarded by Pascal Bary, a man who has won the French Derby five times.

My only concern is that I did not see him entered yet next week. We may just have to be a little patient and keep him on the radar for a little bit later in the season.

OCEAN ATLANTIQUE
American Pharoah (USA) - Tare Green (USA)(Giant's Causeway) (USA)
Trained by Andre Fabre

Ocean Atlantique was defeated by Ketil on his first start but got off the mark in his second outing at Saint-Cloud, scoring by eight lengths in a very heavy ground, which seems a bit odd for a son of Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah.

He has scope, a nice turn of foot and will definitely have progressed a lot physically and mentally over the winter; in my mind, no doubt about it. He is entered in the Prix La Force on Thursday May 14th which promises to be a very exciting race, probably as exciting if not more than the Fontainebleau this coming Monday.

Ocean Atlantique has all the attributes to become a very nice horse and although we will know where we stand only after the race, he looks something quite special in many aspects.

HELTER SKELTER
3yo bay colt; Wootton Bassett (GB) - Winna Chope (FR) (Soave) (GER)
Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget

Many racegoers noticed Helter Skelter’s remarkable finish in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère when he was fifth to Victor Ludorum last season. We must admit that very few things went right in that race for the son of Wootton Basset but he still managed to display his beautiful turn of foot in the final furlong.

He is a lightly-framed horse and will certainly be very close to his optimum fitness this coming Monday when he is set to clash again with Victor Ludorum. He may well represent the biggest danger to the son of Shamardal who will not be yet at the top of his game.

However, we could be lured by the way he was gaining ground on the winner of the Lagardère last year. Two things have to be taken into account however; one: Helter Skelter started to quicken later than his opponent, and two: Victor Ludorum idled once he hit the front.

I think a combination of these two factors make Jean-Claude Rouget’s horse look a little bit better than he was at the time, only my view on it, but he remains a good prospect.

Laurent Barbarin's French Classics horses to follow
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