River Tiber lands the Coventry
Coventry winner River Tiber is among 7 last-time-out pattern winners in the Prix Morny

Timeform preview and selection for Sunday's Group 1 action at Deauville

John Ingles previews a seriously competitive Prix Morny at Deauville on Sunday featuring no fewer than seven last-time-out pattern winners.

Group 1 Sumbe Prix Morny - 3.25 Deauville

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City of Troy and Bucanero Fuerte have emerged as the top two-year-olds so far but there may well be a third candidate challenging for top spot in the juvenile generation after Sunday’s Prix Morny at Deauville. That’s because it looks the two-year-old race with the most strength in depth of the season so far as no fewer than seven of the nine declared runners won a pattern race last time out. Taking each other on, therefore, are the winners of the Coventry, the Norfolk, the July Stakes, the Richmond, the Princess Margaret, the Prix Robert Papin and the Prix de Cabourg. Between them, they’ve won 18 races, with form-lines from Britain, Ireland and France all represented.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, or ‘the hair in the soup’ as they’d put it in Deauville – not for the first time this summer – it could be the ground. Conditions have at least improved slightly from the forecast ‘heavy’ to what is officially now ‘holding’ ground and that trend looks set to continue with seemingly no further rain forecast, though that could still make for quite tiring conditions. We’re also now three weeks into Deauville’s month-long meeting and Sunday will be their third day of racing out of the last four, so fresh ground will be hard to find even though the Morny is the first race on Sunday’s card run over the straight course.

Aidan O'Brien: My York Ebor Festival team

There have been only four French-trained winners of the Morny this century but that shouldn’t put anyone off the Christopher Head-trained filly Ramatuelle who has the edge on our reading of the form taking her allowance into account. The Morny, by the way, must be the Group 1 two-year-old contest that sees the most competition between the sexes, and fillies have done well in it of late, winning three of the last seven renewals.

Ramatuelle is only a head away from being unbeaten in four starts, with only the exciting colt Beauvatier, who is unbeaten himself, lowering her colours to date. Her three wins have all come by margins of between four and five lengths, and she travelled strongly and showed plenty of pace again for her latest success at Chantilly in the Robert Papin where the Ballydoyle colt His Majesty chased her home.

While His Majesty has had his limitations exposed, that’s not the case with Aidan O’Brien’s representative this time, RIVER TIBER. Far from it, as he kept his unbeaten record when justifying short odds in a big field for the Coventry Stakes. Last week’s Phoenix Stakes winner Bucanero Fuerte, who was third at Royal Ascot, has done the most for that form since and River Tiber, who looked one of the best types physically in the Coventry field, seems highly likely to progress again. He was also a ten-length winner on heavy ground on his debut at Navan so no guessing is required about whether he’ll handle the conditions. That boosts confidence in River Tiber’s chances, though he hasn’t had an ideal build-up, having reportedly had to miss a week’s work a fortnight ago, which resulted in him waiting for this race rather than going for the Phoenix. Even then, he had to come through a canter satisfactorily on Saturday morning to get the go-ahead to line up.

As well as River Tiber, Ramatuelle faces another unbeaten colt with the potential to push her all the way in Vandeek for Simon and Ed Crisford. He only made his debut less than a month ago and was still rather green last time so looks sure to improve again. It’s true the field he beat in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood was nothing like as strong as this one, but he confirmed the debut promise of an impressive win at Nottingham and both his races have been on soft ground, so the recent rain shouldn’t detract from his chances.

Besides River Tiber, the other Royal Ascot winner in the field is Valiant Force who caused a huge upset when winning the Norfolk Stakes for Adrian Murray at odds of 150/1. That form doesn’t look as strong as the Coventry, however, and Elite Status, the 7/4 favourite for the Norfolk, didn’t run up to his best when third that day. However, Elite Status has made a really good impression in winning his three other starts (including a debut success in heavy ground) and got back on the up in the Prix de Cabourg three weeks ago over the Morny course and distance. This demands more, but there was a lot to like about the way he travelled through the race and then turned back the challenge of Andre Fabre’s runner Sajir in the final furlong. Elite Power’s trainer Karl Burke won the Morny in 2017 with Unfortunately, while Fabre is the only French trainer to have won it in the last ten years, doing so in 2019 with Earthlight.

Another trainer bidding to win this again is Clive Cox, successful previously with Reckless Abandon in 2012. He has the July Stakes winner Jasour entered, though it’s worth pointing out he won on good to firm ground at Newmarket and was taken out of the Richmond Stakes when the ground softened at Goodwood. Coming from off the pace, Jasour was a 16/1-shot last time, improving on his maiden success in an ordinary race at Nottingham, and has more to find than most in this field, for all that he’s capable of improving again.

The other filly in the field is Sacred Angel for Charlie Johnston, with the Princess Margaret Stakes winner running in the colours of Nurlan Bizakov whose Sumbe breeding operation sponsors the entire card. Having won a maiden at the July meeting, Sacred Angel showed improved form when making all for a three-length win at Ascot last time, though the fillies she beat there were several notches below the rivals she’s up against this time.

Taking his chance as the likely outsider is Amo Racing’s second string Thunder Blue for Dominic Ffrench Davis. Fitted with blinkers and a tongue tie for the first time here, he’s come up short in pattern races in his last three starts, including when fifth to the same owner’s Valiant Force in the Norfolk and fourth to Jasour in the July Stakes.

This looks sure to be a very informative race, even if uncertainty about how testing the ground proves to be by Sunday afternoon is a complicating factor. The speedy Ramatuelle would have been the choice on good ground or firmer, but, now that he’s been given the green light to take his chance, RIVER TIBER gets the verdict given we know he handles softer ground and he can become a second consecutive Morny winner for O’Brien after Blackbeard last year. Vandeek is another who’s progressing and shouldn’t be far away either.

Via Sistina wins the Pretty Polly
Via Sistina wins the Pretty Polly

The other Group 1 earlier on the card is the Prix Jean Romanet for older fillies and mares over a mile and a quarter. Andre Fabre dropped Mqse de Sevigne back to a mile here three weeks ago when she produced a career best to win the Prix Rothschild but she might find it tougher to follow up against cross-Channel opposition. Conditions will suit Joseph O’Brien’s runner Above The Curve who was beaten a neck by Al Husn in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last time, but she was no match for Via Sistina when third behind George Boughey’s mare in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh on her previous outing.

Via Sistina found the Falmouth Stakes coming too soon last time, but she can get back on track here, likely to be facing the softest conditions she’s met since slamming Al Husn by six lengths in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket back in May. Testing conditions aren’t a concern for Hughie Morrison’s runner One For Bobby, though she’s up in grade after a Group 3 success in the Grand Prix de Vichy last month, with Christophe Soumillon on board again, while Trevaunance, a dual course-and-distance winner here last summer for Jessica Harrington, has something to find after finishing fifth behind the selection in the Pretty Polly last time.

Trainer quotes

Christopher Head, Ramatuelle: “We can’t wait to go to the Morny with her and it has been part of the plan since the beginning. I think she’s the type of horse who can box with this calibre of horse at this time in the season. There is going to be two fillies, two French horses and lots of good opposition, but she’s doing fine and all the lights are green for the Morny.”

Aidan O’Brien, River Tiber: “He’s good, I’m worried that he missed 10 days so he will run with a cloud over him. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he did get tired. We are taking a chance on running him back because if he doesn’t run now he won’t be out until the autumn. He came sounder quicker than we thought he would, he did a piece of work and that’s why we let him take his chance, but there is a cloud over him. If he did run disappointing I wouldn’t be surprised. He was lame for seven days, he came back sound but he missed all the work.”

Adrian Murray, Valiant Force: “We’re very happy with him and we worked him at the Curragh last week alongside Bucanero Fuerte and he worked very well. He would prefer good ground. Bucanero would like to get his toe in, but Valiant Force would be a better horse on quick ground. You don’t know until you run them but we think that. He hit the line well over five at Ascot, which is a strong five, so he should be OK stepping up in trip.”

Karl Burke, Elite Status: “I’m very happy with him, he looks in great shape and will improve from his Group Three there a few weeks ago. But he will need to in what looks a very good renewal.”

Clive Cox, Jasour: “It’s a competitive heat as you would expect and I’m really happy with him, he’s in excellent form. Conditions were good for us earlier in the week and I know there’s a drop of rain about, but hopefully conditions will be OK. We were unhappy to run at Goodwood with a penalty in what was effectively heavy ground and with this race on the horizon it was a sensible manoeuvre not to run him there. I’m very happy he is in good form and we’re looking forward to seeing him run in a Group One.”

Chris Wall (racing manager for owners KHK Racing Ltd), Vandeek: “He has done nothing wrong and won his only two races so far. Last time, he won the Richmond at Goodwood and this is a much tougher test with plenty of stakes form from Europe in it. We’re not kidding ourselves, we know we’re in at the deep end, but he’s done nothing but improve and physically he is getting stronger all the time. The ground at Goodwood last time was very soft and while he coped with that, I think he will be better on a sounder surface. The hope is he can be competitive and we will know where we stack up against the others – and if he runs his race, I would like to think he will be getting amongst them a bit anyway. He’s earned his place in Group One company by winning a Group Two and I think he’ll acquit himself well and not let the side down. I think he’s going to run a nice race.”

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