Soft ground worry as Wesley Ward star goes for glory in France

Campanelle and Frankie Dettori winning the five-furlong G2 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot for U.S. trainer Wesley Ward in June. The filly steps up a furlong on Sunday

After its three-day sojourn in Yorkshire, the European part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge  returns to France on Sunday for the Prix Morny at Deauville.

One of the nation’s most historic races, dating back to 1865, the Darley-sponsored dash down the straight six furlongs offers a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland.

However, both recent results and the complexion of this weekend’s field suggest it is unlikely to be a French-based trainer who will be thinking about travel arrangement for Kentucky later in the year, as only two of the last 15 editions have been won by the home team.

Admittedly, those winners did include Godolphin’s Earthlight 12 months ago, but betting suggests the Morny is again likely to be marked for export as three overseas Royal Ascot winners feature among the leading fancies, namely Campanelle for Wesley Ward, who has won this twice already, plus the Queen’s Tactical and Nando Parrado for Britain. 

The second Darley-sponsored G1 on the Deauville on the Sunday card is the Prix Jean Romanet for older fillies and mares, where Sheikh Hamdan’s Falmuth winner Nazeef will start favourite to resume winning ways.

Prix Morny: a bit of context

HistoryEstablished in 1865, the 1,200-metre (6f) event is named in homage to the Duc de Morny, who had died after launching Deauville racecourse the previous year. Indeed, it was originally known as the Prix de Morny, before the ‘de’ was lost to the mists of time; his dukeship was Napoleon Bonapartre’s half-brother; he also founded Longchamp. Opened to foreign horses in 1947, the Morny has long been the happiest of hunting grounds for visitors in more recent years – even last year, when Earthlight kept the prize at home, English-trained horses filled second and third places (Raffle Prize and Golden Horde).

Star turn: Arazi (1991) – destined to go down in Breeders’ Cup folklore for his astonishing Juvenile victory on the dirt, the little chestnut with the crooked white blaze handed out a three-length drubbing to his rivals in the Morny en route to Churchill Downs.

Most wins (trainer): Robert Denman (8): Present Times (1884), Frapotel (1886), Farnus (1901), Vinicius (1902), Val d'Or (1904), Mehari (1908), Porte Maillot (1911), Marka (1912)

Modern era: Francois Boutin (7): Nonoalco (1973), Super Concorde (1977), Tersa (1988), Machiavellian (1989), Hector Protector (1990), Arazi (1991), Coup de Génie (1993)

Most wins (jockey): George Stern (10): Eperon (1900), Farnus (1901), Vinicius (1902), Val d'Or (1904), Mehari (1908), Porte Maillot (1911), Marka (1912), Durzetta (1920), Zariba (1921), Banstar (1925)

Modern era: Gerald Mosse (5): Tersa (1988), Arazi (1991), Chargé d’Affaires (1997), Bad As I Wanna Be (2000), Reckless Abandon (2012)

Frankie Dettori (5): Bahamian Bounty (1996), Dabirsim (2011), The Wow Signal (2014), Shalaa (2015), Lady Aurelia (2016)

Breeders’ Cup Challenge

The winner of the Prix Morny will receive an automatic fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at the two-day championships at Keeneland on November 6-7. A minimum travel allowance of $40,000 will also be provided for all starters based outside North America.

Already qualified (1)The Lir Jet (Norfolk Stakes, Royal Ascot) 

Breeders’ Cup past performance

Arazi’s subsequent exploits at Churchill Downs after he won the Morny in 1991 mean the race may forever be woven into the tapestry of the Breeders’ Cup. However, he wasn’t the only Prix Morny winner to leave his mark in the U.S., as in 2001 Johannesburg also thwarted America’s top juveniles and became the only Breeders’ Cup winner Aidan O’Brien has ever saddled on dirt.

Europe has yet to leave a significant mark on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, the race with which the Morny is now linked, though A’Ali ran in both races last year. After coming fifth in France, he was a disappointing tenth of 12 when well fancied at Santa Anita.

    Top contenders for 2020

    Campanelle (Wesley Ward/Frankie Dettori) – the trainer won this with No Nay Never (2013) and Lady Aurelia (2016) but the expected very soft ground on Sunday is always a concern for the formidable stable’s representatives; with this ride to look forward to, Dettori made a virtue of quarantine necessities by staying in France for a week after winning the Marois on Palace Pier last weekend.

    Tactical (Andrew Balding/Pierre-Charles Boudot) – earmarked for this race straight after ready success in July Stakes at Newmarket on softish ground, having won the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot; son of star miler Toronado takes high rank among British juveniles and is seeking Queen’s first G1 success since Estimate in 2013 Gold Cup.

    Rhythm Master (Richard Fahey/Cristian Demuro) – Dark Angel colt is up in class but looked decent when quickening up well to score by more than for four lengths on Haydock debut on good to soft ground a month ago.

    Nando Parrado (Clive Cox/Christophe Soumillon) – unseen since shock 150/1 victory in Royal Ascot’s foremost 2-year-old race, the Coventry Stakes, having missed intended outing in the Prix Robert Papin following late setback; must show Ascot win was no fluke but trainer says he wasn’t entirely surprised and this son of Kodiac may well be overlooked again.

    Cairn Gorm (Mick Channon/Gerald Mosse) - unbeaten colt defied penalty at Newbury before completing hat-trick with G3 victory over course and distance on August 2; needs to step up again but a game, solid type.

    What they say

    • John Dance (owner of Rhythm Master): “Ideally we would have found something intermediate before stepping up to this level, but there really wasn’t anything suitable. Richard [Fahey] likes the horse and convinced me the Gimcrack or the Morny was the way to go. It’s a bit of a giveaway about how much we think of the horse and maybe for a second start it’s bonkers!”
    • Clive Cox (trainer of Nando Parrado): “He just missed a couple of days before the Robert Papin and it was just a case of bad timing, but he has trained really well since. Just because he was 150/1 when he won at Royal Ascot, he is still a very good horse. He is already a Group 2 winner and hopefully he can now progress further.” (speaking to Racing TV)
    • Andrew Balding (Tactical's trainer): “This has been the plan since his win at Newmarket. I was thrilled with his performance that day. He seems to be improving with every run and we have been very happy with his work at home. He’s pretty versatile ground-wise. He won on good to soft at Newmarket during a heavy downpour, so I don’t think soft conditions at Deauville will bother him. It would be fantastic to have a top-level success for Her Majesty.”
    View Comments
    blog comments powered by Disqus

    More Road to the Breeders’ Cup Articles

    By the same author