Jacques Le Marois a family affair for Palace
I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy To be calm when you've found something going on But take your time, think a lot Why, think of everything you've got For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.
A verse from Father And Son, one that flirts with profound but descends into cheesy, or maybe that’s just me, tainted by the Boyzone version. But the father and son theme is strong in this year’s Prix Jacques Le Marois, as it has been before, memorably and majestically, with Godolphin’s ‘D’ team.
One of the great races of the European calendar, for which Sunday’s edition is the 99th, the Prix Jacques Le Marois has on its roll of honour some of the finest fillies to have graced the sport’s stage, from champion – and subsequent Arc winner – Pearl Cap back in the ‘30s, through to Miesque, Sayyedati, Banks Hill, Six Perfections, Goldikova, Moonlight Cloud (in a race-record time) and Alpha Centauri.
But it’s the paternal pattern that produced arguably the richest chapter in the race’s history, as well as being the sub-plot in this year’s story.
Recalibrated after defeat in the Derby, Dubai Millennium launched his legend in the 1999 Jacques Le Marois, nothing laying a glove on him that day, not even the other joint-favourite Dansili, the heavy ground ruling out Sendawar, though Dubai Millennium would teach him a lesson the following summer.
I was once like you are now. Fast forward six years, and Dubai Millennium’s son, from tragically his only crop, Dubawi, likewise found himself in the Jacques Le Marois at a career crossroads after failing the Epsom examination. Though third-favourite, behind Divine Proportions and Valixir, Dubawi emulated his sire and, in the words of his rider at Deauville, Kerrin McEvoy, ‘showed them today that he’s a great horse.’
The formidable father and son both shone on the same straight at Deauville, one reflecting the other, while Dubawi’s subsequent super-sire status only magnifies the ‘what if’ factor around Dubai Millennium, nonetheless the paternal line that has kept Godolphin in the game, versus Ballydoyle and Galileo.
And just to tie a bow around that particular generation game, Dubawi himself produced Makfi, winner of the 2010 renewal of the Prix Jacques Le Marois.
There’s a French connection behind the latest round of family fortunes in the Jacques Le Marois. The dam of Invincibile Spirit was Prix de Diane winner Rafha, and when Invincible Spirit was introduced to another French classic heroine, Zenda, who’d been successful in the 2002 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, their mating produced one of the most memorable milers of the modern era, Kingman.
Kingman’s cruise in the 2014 Jacques Le Marois, when calculated at running the penultimate furlong in just 10.75 seconds, would turn out to be his last race, but he’s the gift that keeps on giving, now one of the hottest properties in bloodstock, and two of his best sons are on a collision course this Sunday.
Persian King has been a restoration project this year, mission accomplished to a large extent, though the Jacques Le Marois is a world away from the Group 1 he won last month, when beating Stormy Antarctic and Pogo in a substandard Prix d’Ispahan, and, so far at least, Palace Pier is much more his father’s son.
So how good is Palace Pier? When Kingman ran away with the St James’s Palace Stakes in 2014, he recorded a BHA rating of 125, which is 5lb higher than the BHA figure for Palace Pier in winning the same Royal Ascot race this year, though that probably undersells Palace Pier somewhat, Pinatubo having done something for the form, even if Wichita hasn’t.
Also, the pair arrived at Ascot at different stages of development, Kingman having already tackled two Guineas by then, whereas Palace Pier was leaping up from a handicap, which in itself doesn’t mark up his rating at all but does suggest it’s the least he can do.
It ain’t what he beat it’s the way that he did it, that’s what gets remarks, and in his Sectional Spotlight for Royal Ascot, Simon Rowlands remarked that “Palace Pier’s final 2f was bettered in absolute terms by only the one-two in the King’s Stand Stakes, Battaash (23.34 secs) and Equilateral (23.36 secs), and that only marginally, across the five days.”
In other words, Palace Pier ran unusually fast at the end of a mile. In other words, like father like son, sharing the same boost as well as blood, copyright Kingman in the mechanics and dynamics. And that’s why Palace Pier will be so hard to contain on Sunday, because of that ancestral amalgam of a sprinter’s speed and a miler’s mindset that made Kingman unbeatable in the summer of 2014.
Persian King has home advantage, Romanised has experience, Circus Maximus has resolve and Alpine Star has the allowances, but none of them has the talent and turbine that Palace Pier has, paternally propelled.
Palace Pier is to Kingman what Dubawi was to Dubai Millennium, both an honour and an heir, recognition by repetition, which is precisely why the Prix Jacques Le Marois has such significance, for history and heritage, as the race defines the horses, not the other way around.
Prix Guillaume D'Ornano presents French Derby rematch
Such is the connected tissue in horse racing that we can bring those two sire-and-son strands together from the Jacques Le Marois to get into the other big race in France this weekend. Dubai Millennium gave us Dubawi, who gave us Make Believe, who gave us Mishriff, whose great grandam was none other than the aforementioned Rafha, the generator of Invincible Spirit and, in turn, Kingman.
The story of this year’s Prix du Jockey Club was as much Victor Ludorum’s demise as Mishriff’s triumph, adding heat to the rematch in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville on Saturday, not forgetting that it’s less of a line from Chantilly and more of a triangle, because of The Summit, who was runner-up in the French Derby.
There’s nothing clever in suggesting Victor Ludorum can emerge on top this time, as he’s favourite to do so, and short at that, but he ran the Prix du Jockey Club the least efficiently of the oncoming trio, originating with a slow start from the inside draw, leaving him a mountain to climb, which he more or less did, but at the wrong time in the race.
At Deauville, he has 110 yards less to cover, a smaller field to negotiate and, above all, a lesson learned from Chantilly, as much in what Victor Ludorum can’t do as what he can do. I definitely think that Victor Ludorum will take his revenge on Mishriff and The Summit at 2.10 on Saturday but, like I said, that’s neither big nor clever, needing to take a short price to find out.