It took a while for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget to authorise his brilliant three-year-old Brametot to head in the direction of Chantilly for Sunday’s G1 Prix du Jockey Club (2100m), the French Derby.
But now that he has, all eyes will be on the colt whose courage as well as brilliance was displayed again at Deauville in the middle of last month.
Brametot had to fight his heart out to grab Le Brivido in the last stride of the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains up the challenging 1600m straight line, with the winning time of 1m 36.82s being quicker than the previous year’s victor The Gurkha had achieved on notably faster ground.
The French handicapper was amongst many to be hugely impressed, awarding Brametot a rating of 122, a figure that must earn respect even from supporters of the mighty Irish-trained Churchill.
Training maestro Rouget is traditionally wary of running horses too soon, especially after outstanding performances such as that, but this week he announced his verdict: “Since Deauville I have seen what I wanted to see from Brametot so running on Sunday is the logical choice.”
From his base in France’s South West, Rouget has long churned out more winners annually than anyone else in France. However, he now also regularly achieves winning verdicts at the very top level with horses like the brilliant Almanzor, last year’s Prix du Jockey Club winner.
Rouget is already talking about the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) for Brametot so he must consider that Sunday’s elevation to 2100m will be a plus, something that the colt’s breeding - especially on his dam’s side - would also suggest.
Cristian Demuro will again be his jockey and no doubt will attempt to make sure his mount is alert from the gates, a possible chink in his armour.
Andre Fabre, France’s champion trainer moneywise nearly every year since 1987, has won the Prix du Jockey Club four times and he appears to have a realistic chance of making it a fifth.
Fabre’s Plumatic failed to justify favouritism in the G3 Prix de Guiche (1800m) at Chantilly last month but the expected mount of Maxime Guyon was apparently unhappy on the soft ground. Meanwhile the same trainer’s Waldgeist has been re-directed from a tilt at Epsom’s Derby to the nearly-as-prestigious Chantilly version.
A G1 winner last October, Waldgeist was also a beaten favourite last month, in the G2 Prix Greffulhe over 2000m at Saint-Cloud. Fabre says: “It was a good effort on his first race of the year and he quickened nicely but he needs further. He is a staying horse.” Given that comment, it remains to be seen if the only slightly longer trip at Chantilly on Sunday will be quite far enough for Waldgeist to show his true potential.
And there looked to be no fluke about the victory of Olivier Peslier’s mount Recoletos in that G2, so there was minimum surprise when the son of Whipper was supplemented into Sunday’s big encounter.
Trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias says: “We’ve beaten a G1 winner despite the fact that our horse is still immature and nervous. People will say that he must be a soft ground horse because of his sire but Recoletos has already won on a faster surface and he has the action of a good ground horse.”
Also supplemented is Godolphin’s Bay Of Poets. He finished third to Cracksman and Permian in the Derby Trial (2016m) at Epsom in April, so it will be most interesting to see how that pair get on in the Derby itself at Epsom on Saturday. Trainer Charlie Appleby says: “Bay Of Poets deserves to have a crack at a Classic race. Ideally we’d like good ground or faster.”
And his wish may be granted with generally drying conditions anticipated at Chantilly at this stage.