Features

Laurens toughs it out in the Prix de Diane

A winner of the Fillies’ Mile (Gr 1, 1m) at Newmarket as a juvenile and the Prix Saint-Alary (Gr 1, 2000m) at Longchamp last month, Laurens added the most lucrative success of her career to date when fending off sustained challenges on both flanks in what proved a thrilling finish in the Parisian sunshine. However, without seeking to detract from the battling qualities exhibited by the winner, who has carved herself a niche as a tenacious customer to pass, this result offered further evidence to the overarching argument that the current crop of European three-year-olds is an ordinary one at best.

As is often customary at Chantilly, the race was run at a muddling early gallop and McDonald proved enterprising aboard Laurens, who raced keenly on the girths of the pace-setting Luminate (Lawman) having obtained a prominent pitch from her wide draw in stall 12.

A number of those who were ridden more patiently struggled to obtain a clear run at the leaders as the tempo quickened up the straight and while Laurens enjoyed an uninterrupted passage at the head of the proceedings the runner-up, Musis Amica (Dawn Approach), faced an impossible task from a pace perspective having been last turning in, while the fourth-placed Happily (Galileo) was switched to the inside having suffered a troubled run through, including scrimmaging passing Les Grandes Ecuries. Neither, however, really looked like reaching Laurens, who responded generously to her rider’s urgings but was all-out at the line.

The first five home were eventually separated by half a length and the Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 110 awarded to Laurens is the second lowest attributed to the winner of this race in the last six seasons, proving 1lb above the 2015 scorer Star Of Seville (Duke Of Marmalade) but 10lb inferior to the imperious performance posted by Treve (Motivator) in 2013.

While the sedate early gallop contributed significantly to the bunched finish, the margin separating Laurens and Happily was the same half-length as it had been when the pair finished second and third respectively in the 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) at Newmarket, notwithstanding the trouble in running the latter experienced here, while the distance splitting Laurens and the fifth-place With You (Dansili) was only marginally greater than it had been in their encounter at Longchamp last month.

As such, Laurens has not needed to improve to land the spoils and her peak performance on RPRs remains the 113 awarded for her Fillies’ Mile success. Furthermore, the increased emphasis on stamina afforded to the second, third and fifth has resulted in negligible – if any – improvement, despite their pedigrees suggesting otherwise, making it difficult to be too positive about this piece of form as a whole given their pre-race ratings were not in the category of top-class either. As the point in the season whereby the clash of the generations moves closer, the initiative remains firmly with the older horses from a middle-distance perspective.

Australia on the cards again for Marmelo

Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) ninth Marmelo (Duke Of Marmalade) made a successful return to racing on British shores when landing the Grand Cup (Listed, 1m6f) at York on Saturday, lowering the track record in the process, and in the post-race debrief trainer Hughie Morrison nominated a return to Australia in the spring as the long-term target for the five-year-old.

Officially rated 114 having achieved his best form when winning the Prix Kergorlay (Gr 2, 3000m) at Deauville last August, Marmelo posted a promising seasonal reappearance to finish within a neck of Gold Cup (Gr 1, 2m4f) third-favourite Vazirabad (Manduro) in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (Gr 2, 3000m) at Longchamp in May.

Although he was not required to replicate that level of form at the weekend, the presence of the penalised six-year-old Duretto (Manduro), who went into the race rated 109 having shown his peak form on easier ground, anchoring the winning performance in the region of 107, Marmelo impressed with the way he travelled under Ryan Moore, while he showed a good attitude when asked to put the race to bed inside the final quarter mile.

However, both trainer and jockey were united in their subsequent analysis that the good-to-firm surface was on the quick side for the strapping son of Duke Of Marmalade (Danehill) and the likelihood of him improving on last season’s form in the Melbourne Cup would surely require an unseasonal wet spell in the build up to the race. His stamina was seemingly assured when he was well positioned off a stop-start gallop in the race last year, but he found less than expected when asked to lengthen on the turn for home and he looked unable to fully let down on the quick surface.

The John Gosden-trained Weekender (Frankel), who occupied the runner-up spot on Saturday, took the field along in the early stages and while he was caught flat footed as the tempo increased he found plenty for pressure under Frankie Dettori, closing again on the winner at the line and ultimately shaping like he would appreciate the return to two miles off a stronger overall gallop. Weekender would need to find further improvement to develop into a legitimate contender for the Melbourne Cup, but that is perfectly feasible given his lightly-raced profile and high-end connections, although his turn might come next year given he is quite light on racecourse experience, particularly in bigger fields.

Beringer shows Australian potential

Finally, progressive middle-distance three-year-olds become hot property for the international market at this stage in the season and the Alan King-trained Beringer (Sea The Stars) stamped himself as a potential candidate for Australian purchasers with an impressive success in the three-year-old handicap (1m2f) at Sandown on Friday.   

Running under a six-pound penalty for a two-length victory at Leicester eleven days earlier, Beringer proved himself to be well ahead of the handicapper when sweeping past this nine-runner field under Martin Harley, going at least four lengths clear inside the furlong marker before being eased in the final fifty yards to win by two lengths from last-time-out winner Hyanna (Champs Elysees) and handicap debutant Kabrit (Mastercraftsman), both of whom looked feasibly treated and capable of further progress themselves.

In winning with such ease, Beringer has run to a mark of at least 93 with the potential of significantly more to come, while his overall time compared eye-catchingly well to six-length course and distance winner Pivoine (Redoute’s Choice) earlier on the card, adding further substance to this success while suggesting Beringer has stakes-level capabilities further down the line.

Having run four times as a juvenile with limited success, Beringer underwent both gelding and wind surgery over the winter and faced with an increased emphasis on stamina this season he has improved dramatically in his last three runs. As such, he is very much one to keep onside with the ceiling of his abilities not yet clear.