The French-trained Godolphin horses are currently enjoying an excellent start to the new season, writes Liz Price.
As in previous years, the Godolphin-owned horses are split between André Fabre and Henri-Alex Pantall and while the bulk of the Godolphin owned horses are based in Chantilly in the yard of André Fabre, the rest are enjoying the stunning surroundings of the private training facilities at Beaupreau where Henri-Alex Pantall is based.
So far, Godophin has won 19 races from 62 individual runners in 107 races in France, which means they are currently leading the owners’ table in terms of prize-money won.
The Godolphin horse everyone has been talking about, not just in France but also in England and Ireland, is the André Fabre trained Persian King who is the favourite of the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Longchamp on Sunday.
Here, Lisa-Jane Graffard, the racing manager for Godolphin France, kindly talks to us about their classic hopes and horses that are likely to come over to England in the future.
MORGAN LE FAYE
5-y-o b f Shamardal – Molly Malone
Third in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran and third in the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak last year, she made her seasonal reappearance in the much shorter Prix Zarkava, which she won easily by two and a half lengths. She proved a revelation over the shorter trip and was a convincing winner of the 1 ¼ m Group 3 Prix Allez France.
“She is lovely. It was great, to see her win. She hadn’t won since her first start and even though she had performed to a very high level, including two G1 placings, it was great to see her come back this year and win. And to win so well. Everyone is delighted. She is not a big filly, but she has just blossomed and really strengthened up, which has allowed her to improve on the track. André had told us that she had done very well. She will run over anything between 10 and 12 furlongs. Visually the impression is that she has improved and there is a good program for her, like the Prix Corrida, which would be the logical next step. And then there is the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, the Prix Jean Romanet and it will depend if André will give her a break over the summer. But there is definitely a nice programme for her.”
INNS OF COURT
5-y-o b c Invincible Spirit – Learned Friend
A winner on his seasonal reappearance in the 6-furlong Listed Prix Servanne at Maisons-Laffitte. He beat City Light by half a length.
“He hadn’t won since last July over the same course and distance and it was very pleasing to see him return to the winner’s enclosure. He has tons of ability, but he has obviously been very inconsistent. He has run some really good races, as he was just beaten in the Jacques le Marois at three and just beaten in the Forêt at four. It is always quite hard to tell in what sort of form he is in, but he appears to be in very good form at the moment. He is quite versatile and the program could include the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot or a step back up to 7 furlongs with a race like the Forêt as a long-term target, but André knows him well and will decide.”
MER ET NUAGES
4-y-o b c Lope de Vega – Mahnaz
A listed winner at three, he then had several setbacks and didn’t run for nearly a year. Made his seasonal reappearance in a listed over 1m1f at Maison-Laffitte, where he was the runner-up and was last seen in the Group 2 Prix du Muguet at Saint-Cloud, where he was beaten by stable companion Plumatic into third place.
“He was sick last summer and had another minor setback when getting ready to make his reappearance last Autumn. We were very pleased with his run on Wednesday, it was the toughest competition he’d ever faced and he acquitted himself well. He appears to be not quite back to his best either as he had a good blow afterwards and André is hopeful that he will improve again. He is entered in the Queen Anne, but there are races for him in France and the goal will really be to get a morale boosting win back into him.”
4-y-o b f Shamardal – Padmini
Very lightly raced filly who won a listed at the end of last season.
“She is entered in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. She is a filly that has a lovely turn of foot. The goal is to try and get a Group race placing with her this year, but things need to go right as she’s been quite delicate so far. André said last week that she is going the right way and we’re in no rush. From three to four fillies often need time to come to hand in the spring/early summer, but she is getting closer to a run now and could run in a 7-furlong race at Longchamp first-up.”
4-y-o b c Medaglia d‘Oro – Visual Mind
Listed placed last year, he finished third in the 1m1f listed Prix Jacques Laffitte at Maisons-Laffitte on his seasonal reappearance.
“We had high hopes for him last year, but he didn’t really live up to that. He is straight forward, probably a Group 3 horse. He will run over eight to ten furlongs.”
4-y-o b f Dubawi – Be Fabulous
Trained by Henri-Alex Pantall. She progressively was tried over longer distances last year. A winner of a 1m6f listed, she was then Group 2 placed last year over 1m7f. This season she finished last in the Group 3 Prix de Barbeville at ParisLongchamp.
“She is a very nice filly. She is a real Dubawi, very laid back at home but with gears on the racecourse. She was late maturing, like her dam who won the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak as a 4-year-old. She took a while to come to hand and she is not the most impressive at home, but she is really tough and has plenty of ability. She ran in the Prix Barbeville where she got galloped into. She will be back though. She is definitely a filly worth watching. She will run over the longer trips. There are plenty of races for her, once she has recovered from her injuries, which are not too serious.”
4-y-o ch f Dubawi – Dunnes River
Trained by Henri-Alex Pantall. Runner-up of the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville last year, she then ran fourth in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes in Keeneland. She made her seasonal reappearance in the Group 3 Prix Edmond Blanc at Saint-Cloud.
“She is entered in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. She will need a nice race at home before travelling and her main objective will be the Prix Rothschild in which she finished runner-up last year. She had a good long break in Newmarket over the winter.”
4-y-o b f Dawn Approach – White Star
Winner of the Prix de la Grotte at three, she was the favourite of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, where she was outpaced at the start, but finished strongly, already indicating that she would be suited by a longer trip. This was confirmed in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines, where only Laurens managed to get the better of her and only by a neck. She hasn’t run since then.
“She is back in training. She won’t be seen out though until the second half of the season. The idea is to improve last year’s record with her. She is a filly that was always off the bridle and then would finish strongly and because of that she probably gave herself two very hard races in the Poule and in the Diane. She was very sore at the backend of last year. We couldn’t really find anything wrong with her, but she ended up having a long break in Newmarket. She then had another minor hiccup at the start of the year, so she only returned to France at the end of April.”
3-y-o b c Kingman – Pretty Please
Impressive winner of the mile Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau and now favourite for the French Poule d’Essai des Poulains.
“Godolphin purchased 50% of Persian King during the winter. He races in Godolphin’s colours this year and if he stays in training as a four-year-old, he will then race in Ballymore Thoroughbred’s colours. He is a very exciting colt and it is fabulous that Godolphin has been able to get into a horse like him. He did nothing wrong at two and when you saw him physically, he was very much the unfinished article and you would hope that he would improve from two to three. And so far, he has been pleasing André. He won his trial easily and is now going to run in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. Persian King has been to Newmarket where he beat a subsequent Group 1 winner, but he handles Longchamp very well. André pinpointed the Prix du Jockey Club as his objective for the first part of the season, so it made sense to stay at home. André knows these families inside out.”
3-y-o b c Siyouni – Grace Lady
Runner-up to stable companion Persian King in the Prix de Fontainebleau. He was beaten five lengths that day.
“He won very impressively on his first start this year at Chantilly on the all-weather. He then appeared not to stay in the Prix de Fontainebleau and then he ran again at Longchamp, when he finished fourth in a listed. He was drawn wide outside and got caught wide, didn’t settle and then got galloped into. So he didn’t run his race. And I think André wants him to recover before making any plans. It’ll be a question of building his morale back up, but he appears to be a 7-furlong horse. He has ability but things need to right for him now.”
3-y-o b c Le Havre – Knyazhna
The winner of a very good maiden at Saint-Cloud over 1 ½ m. He beat Rabdan, a son of Frankel and a winner of a listed last year, by three lengths.
“He is entered in the Prix de l’Avre, a listed, this Saturday at Longchamp. He is also entered in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. He is a big, scopey Le Havre colt. He is a bit of an unknown quantity because he isn’t quite physically mature, and he is just getting it together now. But there is lots of room for improvement. There was nothing wrong with his debut, he has a lovely action, nice turn of foot.”
3-y-o b c Poet’s Voice – Neptune’s Bride
Winner of the Prix Pas de Deux at Saint-Cloud over the mile. It was for unraced horses. He beat Zarkallani, a son of Zarkava by a neck.
“He is fine, I’m not sure where he’s going. I think André is looking for a suitable opportunity.”
3-y-o b g Siyouni – Zaneton
Gelded before his debut, he won his maiden on his second start this season at Maisons-Laffitte under apprentice Augustin Madamet.
“He has had lots of problems. But he is coming to hand. He is not a horse that shows a lot of the horse, but appears to have potential for sprinting distances. It is difficult to tell how far he can go at this point, but he is one to watch out for over the 6-furlong trip.”
3-y-o b c Frankel – Sabratah
Beat Starmaniac on his debut, then was the runner-up to Line of Duty in the Group 3 Prix de Condé at Chantilly at the end of last season. Made his seasonal reappearance in the 1m 2 ½ f Group 3 Prix Noailles where he finished second to his stable companion Slalom.
“He is a very well-bred horse by Frankel out of a very fast mare. He is very straight forward and made a very honourable comeback in the Prix Noailles. He will be dropped back in trip in the Prix de Guiche. He has entries in the Grand Prix de Paris, but the female line of his family is very fast. He is a nice horse. André spoke of him as a Prix du Jockey Club horse early in the year but with a question mark over the trip we will need to see how he gets on next week.”
3-y-o b c Le Havre – Holy Dazzle
Third on his seasonal reappearance in the Group 3 Prix La Force, he then lifted the 1m 2 ½ f Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud, which in the run-up had looked a very strong race but the result has thrown up some serious question marks.
“He really improved from his first start of the season, when he was a solid third in the Prix de la Fore. The fifth placed horse then a won a listed by six lengths, so that was a good boost. He showed a lovely attitude in the Prix Greffulhe and Mickaël gave him a lovely ride to overhaul the long-time leader late on and to win a shade cosily in the end. After the race André reflected that he may come on again for that and that he might benefit from a step up in trip. So while he has won a Jockey Club trial, and that option will remain on the table for the time being, he could end up going for a race like the Grand Prix de Paris.”
3-y-o b c War Front – War Echo
Fourth in a listed at the end of last year, he made his seasonal reappearance in the Group 3 Prix Djebel, which he won by a nose.
“He is entered in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He came out of the Prix Djebel very well, he is a horse that takes his racing really well. He always keeps a little to himself. He is an honest horse, but he just does the minimum. He has run in all kinds of ground and he appears quite versatile. There has always been a question mark about him getting a mile, which is why the Poule wasn’t immediately mentioned. But that is his next target and André feels that Longchamp is a track that should suit him. On ratings he has a bit to find, but he has won one of the main trials, so he’s earned his place in the field.”
3 -y-o ch f New Approach – Board Meeting
Runner-up on her debut at Longchamp in a 1m 2 ½ f maiden.
“She is entered in the Ribblesdale Stakes, but she is a once raced maiden so we are still a little way off that. She is a big galloping filly. She showed ability on her first start, tried to make the running and just got tired in the closing stages.”
3-y-o b f Shamardal – Windsor County
Trained by Henri-Alex Pantall and unraced as a two-year-old, she is unbeaten in both of her starts this year. She won the mile Group 3 Prix de la Grotte at Longchamp.
“She is probably going to be supplemented in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. She arrived late last year and was very much an unknown quantity. For various reasons she didn’t show very much at two. She has just really blossomed. She beat quite a decent field in the Prix de la Grotte, a better field than last year. She has every right to take her chance. She is also entered in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.”
3-y-o b f Invincible Spirit – Taranto
A winner on her debut over 7 furlongs on the all-weather track at Chantilly, she is a full sister to Territories, winner of the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat.
“She won her maiden nicely and we are hoping that she can get some black type. She is entered in the Prix des Lilas at Chantilly on Monday. On pedigree she should be a good ground filly. She’s sweet and tries hard.”