By Gary Nutting, Horsetrader.net
The famous Niarchos colours are set to feature early in the resumption of French racing with promising three-year-old Ketil pencilled in for the Prix La Force at ParisLongchamp on Thursday week.
The Pascal Bary-trained colt, officially owned by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables in Ireland, has a longer-term entry in the Prix du Jockey Club, scheduled for July 5 at Chantilly.
Alan Cooper, their racing manager, told me: “Ketil is a horse we have high hopes for and Pascal says he’s ready to go up to Group level.
“He was a good winner at Saint-Cloud and Deauville last year and we’re happy to put a line through his only disappointing run (also at Deauville), especially as the ground was heavy.
“He’d prefer better ground and hopefully he’ll get it in the La Force. He’s already proven over the trip (nine furlongs) and should stay a mile and a quarter, hence the Jockey Club entry.”
Cooper is also keeping a close eye on developments in Ireland where the Niarchos team have several high-profile horses, notably the Aidan O’Brien-trained four-year-old Circus Maximus and Jessica Harrington’s potential Classic fillies Albigna and Alpine Star.
He said: “Circus Maximus (winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin last year) will be aimed at Group One mile races again, so if Royal Ascot went ahead, the Queen Anne would be an early target.
“Albigna and Alpine Star are Guineas possibles – where and when will be subject to international travel restrictions at the time. Longer term, we would expect Alpine Star to stay further of the pair.”
Cooper added that other three-year-olds on this side of the Channel to look out for include the colts Free Solo – “Jessie thinks he’s a Group horse” – and Sir Michael Stoute’s once-raced winner Highest Ground.
Of the latter, he said: “He’s a late foal who did well to win convincingly on his debut. He has a Derby entry and is doing everything right by all accounts, but Sir Michael doesn’t rush his horses so we’ll have to see how things pan out.”