Pao Alto powered into the French Derby picture with an impressive success in the Prix La Force at ParisLongchamp.
The Christophe Ferland-trained colt won two of his three starts as a juvenile and the high hopes of connections entering the new campaign proved justified with a smooth victory.
Tracking Another Sky and Nat King through the early stages of the Group Three contest, Maxime Guyon’s mount picked up smartly in the straight and while the equally promising Ocean Atlantique gave chase, the winner was always doing enough to hold Andre Fabre’s runner.
Ferland confirmed the Prix du Jockey Club would be the target, with another outing possible before that date at Chantilly on July 5.
He told Sky Sports Racing: “He was declared a non runner at the end of last season in a Group One at Saint-Cloud as he was a bit sick before, but before that he had pleased us very much.
“We always thought he was a good horse and today he stretched his legs very well. He went clear quite easily, so it is a very good win.
“He has grown and put muscle on over the winter. He’s had a good evolution over the winter, especially mentally – he was a horse who was very sweaty last last year and today we’ve seen he’s nice and cool.”
He added: “The plan is to try to go to the Jockey Club, with probably another run in between. I don’t think the (extra) distance will be a problem, especially in the Jockey Club where there is a little bit more pace than today.”
Paddy Power cut the winner to 7-1 from 20-1 for the Chantilly feature, with Ocean Atlantique 10-1 from 20-1. Ladbrokes were even more taken with Ferland’s charge, making him the 5-1 favourite ahead of Victor Ludorum.
Classic clues were also on offer in the Prix de la Seine, where Raabihah looked a smart prospect when winning for Jean-Claude Rouget in the colours Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Only hands and heels were required by Cristian Demuro as the Sea The Stars filly quickly put the Listed race to bed in a matter of strides to stay unbeaten.
Ladbrokes make her the 5-1 favourite for the Prix de Diane (French Oaks), and that is where Rouget is looking, albeit her pedigree suggests the mile and a half of the Investec Oaks could be ideal in a more conventional year and was not completely ruled out by her trainer.
He said: “She showed a bit of class today. We’ll look for a Group race, a prep race for the Prix de Diane, we have the choice between Saint-Cloud and the Prix Saint-Alary here. We’ll see.”
Asked about a chance of the Epsom Oaks, Rouget said: “Yes, but we don’t know the programme (in Britain), so it is quite difficult. She’s a filly for the autumn, the Prix Vermeille or maybe the Arc. It is a definite pedigree to do a mile and a half.”