Few European races have enjoyed such an influence on the Breeders’ Cup as the Prix Jacques le Marois, the latest edition of which takes place at Deauville on Sunday.
The celebrated Group 1, won by a litany of top milers down the years, represents the first visit to France this year for Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge, offering a fees-paid berth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on November 2.
Named in memory of Jacques Le Marois (1865–1920), a president of the venue's former governing body, the Société des Courses de Deauville, the €1 million contest has had links with the Breeders’ Cup since its inception as the 1984 victor Lear Fan went on to finish seventh at the inaugural event at Hollywood Park.
Sponsored for more than three decades by the Haras du Fresnay-le-Buffard, the Niarchos family’s Normandy stud, it is hardly surprising that the owners’ name features heavily on the roll of honour with nine previous victories. On four occasions their winners – the great Miesque (1987 and 1988), Spinning World (1997) and Six Perfections (2003) – have gone on to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile after success in Deauville.
Miesque’s rider, Freddy Head, is the most successful in the history of the Jacques Le Marois with six winners – and he trained Goldikova, who scored in 2009 before completing the middle leg of her historic Breeders’ Cup hat-trick.
Both Head and the Niarchos family are set to be represented in Sunday’s edition of the Jacques le Marois, with the former saddling With You, noted running on nicely in first-time blinkers to be beaten only a half-length by star filly Laurens a fortnight ago in the Prix Rothschild. Third last year behind the Niarchos family's Alpha Centauri (who was retired after sustaining an injury on her next start), George Strawbridge’s daughter of Dansili seems to be rounding into form.
Last year’s Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) hero Study Of Man carries the cross-belts of the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables. Though he has failed to win again since his Classic success, the 4-year-old has been placed on all three outings this term, twice in G1 company before dropping back last time out to this mile distance for the first time since his 2-year-old days. He will be joined by former Jim Bolger-trained Vocal Music, presumably set for pacemaking duties on behalf of his stable companion.
Irish trainer Ken Condon runs last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas victor Romanised, who regained the winning thread last time in G2 company, plus another possible pacemaker in Success Days.
Perhaps of greater interest, however, is the 3-year-old filly Watch Me (Francois-Henri Graffard), bidding for more G1 glory after a surprise 20/1 victory over dual Guineas heroine Hermosa in Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes.
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup form is represented by Godolphin’s Line Of Duty, cutting back in trip after disappointing in both starts this term since his victory in the Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs in November, while Shaman also represents the Classic generation. Runner-up in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, he was down the field in the St James’s Palace Stakes and needs to show more.
As part of the benefits from the Challenge series, Breeders’ Cup will also provide a $40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside North America to compete in the two-day event at Santa Anita on November 1-2.
Since Goldikova, the best effort by a Jacques Le Marois winner came in 2012 with Excelebration, who came fourth behind Wise Dan in the Mile.