Royal Ascot heroine Watch Me is reported in great shape for the Jaques le Marois at Deauville - don't miss Jason Kiely's preview of the top-class action.
It could be a case of Girl Power this afternoon at Deauville as Watch Me bids to win her second Group 1 of the year, the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jaques le Marois worth an incredible €1,000,000.
Having shown a tremendous turn of foot when winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Watch Me, who is the only filly in the line-up, will try and emulate Alpha Centauri who completed the same Royal Ascot/Deauville double last season.
Solid at the head of the market, Watch Me benefits from both age and sex weight allowances and carrying bottom weight of 55kgs her trainer Francis-Henri Graffard believes conditions are ideal.
"Watch Me is in very good form at home, we are very pleased with her condition. We are very happy to be back racing with her here, I have waited for this race and like that she has had plenty of time in between," said Graffard.
Along with being the only female in the race, the three-year-old will also encounter the older generation for the first time, a challenge that her jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot is very much looking forward to.
He said: "Watch Me has been working well recently, the filly is in very good form. We are going to meet older horses for the first time so we will have to wait and see, of course there is Group 1 winners such as Romanised and Study of Man in the race, but I’m happy with Watch Me.
"Also, with the two pacemakers for both Study of Man and Romanised, it should be a race run at a quite strong pace, which will suit us perfectly."
Ground conditions have been a strong talking point in Deauville this week and the straight course will be on the soft side due to the very unsettled recent weather in France, but this is something that Boudot believes will not be an issue for the daughter of Olympic Glory.
“What I can say about the ground is that if it gets softer then it won’t be a problem. She won in very deep ground at the end of last year and then on her comeback run this year it was quite soft when she won the Imprudence at Maisons-Laffitte, so it should be fine," he said.
“Looking at it at this stage, everything is going the right way, all the lights are on green and will be hoping for the victory," added Boudot.
The biggest home threat to Watch Me could come from the Carlos Laffon-Parias trained Shaman. Possibly unlucky not to have finished closer when last seen finishing fifth in the St James's Palace at Royal Ascot, his trainer believes that this race could be there for the taking for the three-year-old.
"Yes, there are older horses and we are not going to hide from them! It’s the Jacques le Marois at the end of the day and I feel that maybe this year’s race is not quite as competitive as some of the previous years.
"We will have to see if that’s true of course, but luckily for me, in my opinion the race is a bit less competitive,” said Laffon-Parias.
“Everything has been going well leading up to the race and even if the ground is a bit softer I can’t see it bothering him that much. The only thing that could pose a problem is the fact that the horse has never run over a straight mile before, he won’t be taking in a bend and it’s something we haven’t done before but I’m sure it will be fine," the trainer added.
Having already been placed second in the French Guineas this season, the trainer stated that it’s only a matter of time before the colt steps up in distance.
"He’s a horse that’s quite easy to handle and I’m looking forward to the future with him. Without doubt we’re going to step him up again in distance, and for that reason Maxime(Guyon) will ride him as he finds him, we could even go in front with him if no pace develops."
The €1,000,000 prize fund has been enough to entice sporting owner Gerard Augustin-Normand to supplement colt Graignes for this race at a cost of €72,000 earlier on this week. Twice placed in Group One company so far, the Yann Barberot trained three-year-old will have to finish at least third if his connections are to gain a profitable return, something the colts jockey Cristian Demuro believes possible,
"We saw that the race didn’t have many runners, especially with the two leaders, so that leaves us with a good chance of running well," said the jockey.
"I know the the last time he didn’t run to form but he pulled a little bit too much and I probably put him into the race too early. Hopefully this weekend we can try and ride him to finish well and take the best position possible. Also the track is probably going to be very soft and in my opinion so that should suit us, he ran very well in the Guineas and that’s good from so it is logical enough to supplement."
Trained in Ireland by Ken Condon, last year's Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised comes into today’s race off the back of a comfortable Group 2 success at the Curragh last time out and is the main hope for the visitors this weekend.
His trainer is optimistic of a good run in what already has been an excellent season for the son of Holy Roman Emperor.
Condon said: "Romanised has been showing a high level of form this year. He ran very well in the Lockinge and also showed up very well in the Queen Anne, you could even argue that he may have been a bit closer if the gaps had come in time.
"The trip to Deauville was always the plan because there’s not many races over a straight mile for him this summer and we didn’t want to compromise his chances because the straight suits him so well."
With conditions soft, Condon admitted that it was a concern but is hoping that the colt's class will see him through.
"It was nice to get that confidence booster last time out. A fast-run race on top of the ground would be ideal but that’s not sounding likely. There’s not much we can do about the rain will just have to see how it goes. I am sure he’s in good form and we hope for the best out of him."
Former French Derby winner Study of Man lines up also, but having been well held when dropped back to a mile last time out in a Group 3 at Deauville, he now has something to prove with the blinkers re-applied.
Also on the card this afternoon is a quite interesting renewal of the Prix Minerve, a Group 3 restricted to three-year-old fillies, with conditions presenting Wonderment with an ideal opportunity to get on the scoresheet for the first time this term.
The daughter of Camelot proved incredibly tough by sighing off last season with victory in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud over 2,000m for her trainer Nicolas Clement, a race won by some high-class stayers in the past such as Fame and Glory.
The manner of that victory suggests that the filly should relish today’s trip of 2,500m and being highest rated in the field, it is a promising situation according to Clement’s assistant trainer Tim Donworth,
"Wonderment is in great form, the conditions of the race suit and she has trained into this race very well having taken her work excellently. She is looking the best now physically as she has done all year," he said.
Donworth goes on to add the filly’s tough attitude should aid the step up in distance on what is her third outing this year.
"She ran an incredibly game race in the Prix de Diane when running on the front end, a run style that didn’t necessarily suit her best qualities. When she won at Saint Cloud last year she showed a great turn of foot when coming from behind and then again at Chantilly when she finished third behind Line of Duty where she closed down quite well. The trip should suit her quite well this afternoon and were hoping for a very game run."
Possibly standing in Wonderment's way of victory is Bolleville, the filly trained by Jean-Claude Rouget caught the eye of many when a highly impressive seven length winner of a class 2 over course and distance last month, and according to her jockey, Cristian Demuro, she could be capable of stepping up to Group company.
"She impressed me massively the last time with her huge turn of acceleration I know that we go up in category and we are doing it really just to see what we have. I know that the last time she was very good but I think she can improve again and we might find ourselves in the right place, it seems the right thing to do. She won on soft ground the last time so that shouldn’t be a problem, I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes."
English runner Star Terms also lines up for her trainer Richard Hannon and will be ridden by James Doyle, having won a listed race in ParisLongchamp recently for connections.