This weekend's international classic is the Prix de Diane Longines, sponsored by the famous Swiss watch company. To be run over 2100 m. at Chantilly, Paris, the rich event on Sunday, June 17th, has drawn an international cast of a dozen 2009-foaled fillies, 4 of which are as yet unbeaten.
As we are speaking of France, the presence at such a superbly-appointed outdoor venue of so many glamorous females, whether of the two-legged or four-legged variety, is certain to draw large crowds! Well before the racing commences, it is expected that upwards of 40,000 spectators will have squeezed past the turnstiles to join the festivities. Whatever the reason, the raceday draws more people than does the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and ranks behind only the Sunday of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in popular appeal amongst the French racing public.
There is a pre-race concert by Ayo, an hour and a half before the first race; the races before the "Diane", which is the fourth on the card, include a pair for relatively inexperienced riders, one for lady amateurs, and another for apprentice jockeys. For connoisseurs of the turf, all that might be regarded as mere fluff – the serious action begins at 3:45 p.m. Central European Time when the public choice, Beauty Parlour (by Deep Impact), will prance out on her dainty toes to be joined by eleven others in the starting gate.
Before dealing with her record and prospects, a few words are in order as to how she came to be. Amongst the leading stables in France is Ecurie Wildenstein, one of the family-owned enterprises operating a racing stable focused on competing at the very highest level of Thoroughbred horse racing. Almost anyone au fait with French racing would have heard the name of the Wildenstein family's greatest performer ever, Allez France (by Sea Bird), as also the likes of All Along, Arcangues, Pawneese, Peintre Celebre, Sagace, etc.
Operating under the Dayton Investments Ltd. banner, the Wildensteins sent their mare Bastet ( by Giant's Causeway), along with a few others, all the way from France to Japan to be covered by the champion son of Sunday Silence, Deep Impact. And this experiment has delivered "in spades"! All three of the Japanese great's stakes winners in Europe are products of the Wildenstein breeding operation and include Group winner Aquamarine and Listed winner Barocci.
Beuaty Parlour, who hails from the same female family as champion sire in India, Everyday II, and further back, that of the legendary Hyperion, is already a classic winner, having annexed the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches-French 1000 Guineas (1600 m.) at Longchamp on May 13th . The added distance should prove no barrier to the Ellie Lelouche trainee, who is to be assisted at the controls by Belgian ace, Christophe Soumillon. Nor should the relatively outside draw of 9 pose any problems for her. Should she succeed in completing the double, she would be replicating the feats of such recent stars as Divine Proportions, Golden Lilac and Zarkava.
Plotting to derail the Wildenstein bandwagon, the Aga Khan stables have launched a three-pronged attack. The hitherto-undefeated Dalkala (Giant's Causeway), who is 3-from-3, is accompanied by stablemate Sagawara (by Shamardal), both from the Alain de Royer-Dupre yard. In addition, Valyra (by Azamour), schooled by Jean-Claude Rouget, has been supplemented . Retained rider Christophe Patrice Lemaire, seen in a good light in India many years ago when steering The Pelican to victory in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, could have chosen any of the trio – he has plumped for Dalkala.
Given that Sagawara scored in the Gr.1 Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp on May 27, she is not without a chance, and with Gerald Mosse in the irons will lack nothing on that score. The going may have some bearing on their performance, as de Royer-Dupre pointed out: "Dalkala was very impressive the last day at Saint-Cloud in a Group 3, but I'm a little bit worried about the ground. It may be a little soft for her. I always think Giant's Causeways are better on good ground. I have no doubts about her condition, the race is at the right time for her, it's just the ground".
The man who has practically swept all the classics in England and Ireland this term, Aidan O'Brien, has found France to be a tougher nut to crack. Nevertheless, he is aiming to keep his classic juggernaut on the move and with that objective in mind fields a pair of Galileo fillies, Kissed, the mount of Joseph O'Brien, and Up, with Ryan Moore astride. Glowing reports of the former, who is particularly suited by soft, suggest she could threaten the dominance of Beauty Parlour.
Rjwa (by Muhtathir) and Forces of Darkness (by Lawman), the place getters behind Sagawara in the Prix Saint-Alary, are also in the field, aiming to turn the tables on their conqueror, while Trois Lunes (by Manduro) comes off a victory in the Gr.3 Prix Vanteaux. Given that the completely unheralded Saonois (by Chichicastenango) won the French Derby a couple of weeks ago, an upset is possible – although not likely – and so one must also mention the remaining three runners, namely the Wildenstein's other runner, Best Of All (by Dylan Thomas), Leaupartie (by Stormy River) and Petite Noblesse (by Galileo). The last-named represents the connections of last year's Epsom Derby winner, Pour Moi, with the difference that Maxime Guyon is in the saddle. Godolphin is conspicuous by its absence.
It would come as a surprise of sorts if Beauty Parlour, who has beaten both Sagawara and Up, were to get beat on merit. She has an apt name for a day associated with ladies and fashion – but then so does Kissed…..