Focus on French classics

England conducted the first round of European classics last week and the three year-old action moves to France this Sunday for the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (2000 Guineas) and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (1000 Guineas).

The Jim Bolger-trained Intense Focus is the 7-2 favourite for the colts division.  He won the G1 Dewhurst Stakes in October and was runner-up to Recharge (Cape Cross) when resuming in the Irish 2000 Guineas Trial in March.

The US bred Intense Focus (3c Giant´s Causeway – Daneleta by Danehill) relishes a battle and thrives on racing.   Bolger was pleased with his return at Leopardstown and, with that run behind him, expects a much better effort at Longchamp.

Intense Focus was a 340,000 euros buy at Goffs in October 2007.  His dam Daneleta was a 2yo winner and is a sister to Danelissima, a G3 winner of the Noblesse Stakes at Naas.

Second dam Zavaleta (Kahyasi) was a Listed winner at Curragh (2yo) and Leopardstown (3yo) and she is a half-sister to the dam of Soldier Of Fortune (Galileo) who won the Irish Derby and Coronation Cup in 2007.

Ballydoyle conditioner Aidan O’Brien named last year’s Champagne Stakes (G2) winner Westphalia as an intended runner.  The Danehill Dancer colt signed off at two with an excellent second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

 “He had a couple of tough races last year at Doncaster and in America,” O’Brien said.  “But he is in good shape.”

Westphalia was a closing half-length second to Silver Frost (Verglas) in the G3 Prix de Fontainebleau at Longchamp on April 12.  He is a younger half-brother to Cliquot (Bertrando), a G2 runner-up at Del Mar and Hollywood Park.

Leading the locals is Sheikh Hamdan’s Naaqoos (Oasis Dream).  The Freddie Head trained colt won the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagadere at Longchamp last October but he was off-key when beaten by Le Havre in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte last month.

“He needed the race in the Djebel,” said Head.  “I think the straight course was a bit of a surprise for him.  I am very happy with the colt, though I would prefer the ground to be on the fast side.”

Betting: 7-2 Intense Focus, 4 Westphalia, 9-2 Naaqoos, Shaweel, 5 Silver Frost, 6 Le Havre, 16 Zafisio, 20 Handsome Maestro, Oiseau De Feu


Fantasia is an odds-on favourite for Sunday’s Poule d’Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp.

The Luca Cumani-trained filly won the Nell Gwyn Stakes but side-stepped the English 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last Sunday to avoid a clash with Rainbow View who is raced in the same interests.

Fantasia (Sadler’s Wells) won last year’s G3 Prestige Stakes before being acquired by George Strawbridge.  “We will go to the French Guineas and then go back for the French Oaks in June,” Cumani said.  “It makes sense to step her up to 2000m in the Diane as I am not sure she will stay 2400m.”

Rainbow View (Dynaformer) was an unplaced favourite for Strawbridge and trainer John Gosden at Newmarket last Sunday.

Last month’s Prix Imprudence winner Elusive Wave (Elusive City) is second favourite ahead of Prix Marcel Boussac winner Proportional (Beat Hollow).

Betting: 4-5 Fantasia, 7-2 Elusive Wave,  6 Proportional,  Tamazirte, 10 Soneva, 20 Entre Deux Eaux,  20  Oh Goodness Me