Charlie Appleby got his week off to an excellent start by securing a Group race double with Al Hilalee and Vintager at Chantilly on Sunday.
The Godolphin handler has an important few days in prospect with last year’s Derby winner Masar expected to headline his Royal Ascot team, with the feature meeting kicking off on Tuesday.
Having finished third in the Listed Fairway Stakes at Newmarket on his latest appearance, Al Hilalee was the 15-8 favourite for the Group Two Prix Hocquart and was soon bowling along at the head of affairs in the hands of James Doyle.
He looked in danger of being mugged when Soft Light charged home from the rear, but the Godolphin runner clung on by a neck.
Lisa-Jane Graffard, the owner’s French representative, said: “His form has improved from race to race. We’ve always thought highly of him.
“We haven’t discussed future targets with Charlie and I’m of the opinion that we should touch base again in a week before deciding where we go next with him.”
Doyle added: “Al Hilalee is still an immature colt and he was certainly a little distracted by the crowd. The penny is just starting to drop with him. The 12-furlong trip is tailor-made for him. I think he has further scope for improvement.
Vintager made it a double with a gutsy success in the Group Three Prix Bertrand du Breuil Longines.
He had not won since last July but rose to the challenge for Doyle, holding off Trais Fluors by three-quarters of a length.
John Gosden and Rab Havlin combined to land the Group Three Prix Paul de Moussac with 7-2 chance Azano.
The Oasis Dream colt finished down the field in the 2000 Guineas on his penultimate start before pushing the exciting Jash close on his return to Newmarket for the King Charles II Stakes.
Making his first appearance in France, Azano tracked the pacesetting favourite Anodor for much of the one-mile contest before taking over the lead as the market leader faded.
Pizzicato finished strongly, but Gosden’s charge had a length in hand at the line.
Thady Gosden, assistant trainer, said: “They set off quite fast, but his jockey has taken a good decision not to follow the immediate pace, keeping the horse where he was happy in his rhythm.
“Once things opened up, the horse accelerated very well. It was his owners who decided to come and run here today, and the Prix Jean Prat could well be a possibility, we will have to have a talk about that.
“We weren’t really expecting to win here today, but he is a colt who will not stop progressing.”