Van Gogh bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with a record fifth victory in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud on Saturday.
In a Group One inaugurated in 2001, the Ballydoyle trainer first struck gold with Mount Nelson in 2006. He has since added to his tally with Jan Vermeer (2009), Roderic O’Connor (2010) and Johannes Vermeer (2015).
Van Gogh heads to France with plenty of experience under his belt from six career outings and has been placed three times at Pattern level, most recently chasing home Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago.
“We were delighted with Van Gogh at Newmarket,” said O’Brien.
“We took our time on him, and he came home very well.
“It was a good performance – he looked like he was finishing his race off well, and we are looking forward to seeing him run.”
After electing to run the aforementioned One Ruler in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster on the same afternoon, Appleby instead sends the unbeaten La Barrosa across the Channel to take on Van Gogh.
The Lope De Vega colt looked a high-class prospect when winning on racecourse debut at Ascot in early September, and furthered that impression with a Group Three success in Newmarket’s Tattersalls Stakes three weeks later.
Appleby said: “La Barrosa won the Tattersalls Stakes, which turned into a little tactical affair, but he got the job done.
“It’s going to be very testing ground at Saint-Cloud, but we are confident with his pedigree that should suit him.
“He did show his class to win from the position he was in at Newmarket, but he has got to improve again stepping up to a Group One. I think going up to a mile will help him, for sure.”
Simon and Ed Crisford’s dual winner Jadoomi is the other British challenger in a seven-strong field.
The other Group One contest on the card is the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, which is run over a mile and a quarter.
O’Brien has also claimed this prize on four occasions, most recently with Recital in 2010, and this year relies on Bolshoi Ballet – who was third on his Newmarket debut before opening his account in some style at Leopardstown just last week.
“He ran green at Newmarket first time out, but then he won well at Leopardstown the next day,” said O’Brien.
“There’s lots of stamina in the pedigree, so you wouldn’t be too worried about stepping up to 10 furlongs.
“Hopefully he runs well.”
British hopes are carried by David Menuisier’s Belloccio and Gear Up from Mark Johnston’s yard.
Belloccio faces a significant step up in class after winning on his introduction at Salisbury a few weeks ago, and bids to provide his French-born trainer with a second Group One in as many weeks following Wonderful Tonight’s success at Ascot last weekend.
Menuisier said: “He’s a horse we like. He won on pure ability at Salisbury, because he was still raw and has come on big time for the run.
“We feel he’s a good horse, and at this time of the year you don’t have much to lose. If he runs well it would be fantastic, and he could well do that. If he doesn’t, what would we have lost?
“I really don’t think either the trip or the conditions will bother him – he might even handle them better than some.
“I’m intrigued to see how he runs, more than confident, but if he runs well I wouldn’t be surprised – because he’s a horse we love.”
Gear Up won on his debut at York and returned to the Knavesmire to win the Group Three Acomb Stakes, before finishing fourth in last month’s Royal Lodge at Newmarket.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, said: “Judged on his run at Newmarket, you would be hopeful the step up to a mile and a quarter would see more improvement in him.
“We left Newmarket a bit frustrated. I felt they didn’t go very quick through the middle part of the race; Frankie (Dettori) sprinted into the dip on New Mandate (winner), and we were quite a long way out of our ground two furlongs out, then we were beaten only a couple of lengths.
“It will be bottomless ground on Saturday, but he has won on good to soft at York – and he goes there with a live chance.”