Modern Games pictured with winning connections at the Breeders' Cup
Modern Games pictured with winning connections at the Breeders' Cup

Timeform's preview of Sunday's French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp

Timeform's John Ingles previews Sunday's Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Longchamp.

A field of 16 has been declared for Sunday’s Poule d’Essai des Poulains (‘French 2000 Guineas’) at Longchamp, the race in which last year’s top three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica began his season.

The large field puts more emphasis on the draw and accentuates the advantage of a low-numbered stall as there’s a relatively short run to the first bend. Charlie Appleby and William Buick won’t have any complaints about the berth for their colt Modern Games who looks the one to beat on two-year-old form. Although he was overshadowed somewhat last year by stablemates Native Trail and Coroebus, that pair have underlined this spring the strength that Godolphin have to call on in the three-year-old miling division.

Modern Games won four of his six starts last year and showed smart form on his last couple of outings, following up his success in the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, unruffled by the trouble at the stalls and proving strong at the finish.

On the other hand, fellow Newmarket raiders Claymore and Bayside Boy, for Jane Chapple-Hyam and Roger Varian respectively, will have much wider draws to deal with. Both of them have been no match for Native Trail, though Claymore ran well against him on just his second start when chasing him home in last month’s Craven Stakes. Having won a novice first time up, also at Newmarket, Claymore is still unexposed, though his entries and breeding point to him needing further than a mile now.

Bayside Boy won the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last year and wasn’t too far behind the leading two-year-olds, finishing third to both Native Trail in the Dewhurst and to Luxembourg in the Futurity Trophy back at Doncaster when not getting the clearest of runs. For one who comes from the rear, traffic problems are a worry again here in this big field.

The draw could have been kinder too to Aidan O’Brien’s runner The Acropolis who is bidding to become his trainer’s sixth winner of this race. However, The Acropolis has nothing like the claims of St Mark’s Basilica last year, being exposed as just useful, though he did run well when a half-length second to Dr Zempf in the Listed 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last time and will stay this extra furlong.

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Between them, Jean-Claude Rouget and Andre Fabre have won the five editions of this race since 2015 that haven’t gone to Ballydoyle, and both are double-handed in this year’s contest. One of Rouget’s pair, Welwal, won the main trial, the Prix de Fontainebleau, here last month, and has yet to finish worse than second in five starts but they finished in something of a heap in the Fontainebleau and it looks a substandard renewal overall for all that a couple of good winners have come out of it since.

Interestingly, promising stablemate Lassaut is at slightly shorter odds but steps up markedly in grade after winning both starts this year, most recently a minor event over this course and distance. Picking up smoothly from the rear, Lassaut never had to come under the whip from Cristian Demuro to get the better of one of the Fabre duo, Tribalist, by three quarters of a length and, from a nice low draw and open to more improvement, Lassaut is an interesting contender.

Tribalist has only won a maiden so far but Fabre’s other runner Ancient Rome showed plenty of ability last year, winning the Group 3 Prix des Chenes over this course and distance from the re-opposing Scherzo before finishing placed behind Ralph Beckett’s Angel Bleu in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp and in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud where he was beaten just a head. While he only finished sixth behind Welwal on his return in the Fontainebleau, he wasn’t given too hard a race and will almost certainly be closer to his best here, with Tom Marquand an interesting jockey booking. He certainly looks each-way value at 16/1.

The other one to mention is Rock Boy, he too handed a good draw. He’s unbeaten in three starts for Richard Chotard, though all of those were under softer conditions than he’s likely to face here. Nonetheless, he showed plenty of improvement to win the Prix Djebel on his reappearance at Deauville last month and could do better again.

You have to go back to the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Shamardal in 2005 for the last winner trained in Britain and the Godolphin colours can be successful again this year with MODERN GAMES who has much the best draw of the Newmarket colts, as well as being the pick on form. Representatives of the leading French yards could give him the most to do; Ancient Rome should be all the better for his reappearance for Fabre, while a big run from Rouget’s improving Lassaut wouldn’t surprise.

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