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Poule d'Essai des Poulains preview

Some of France's top races have been moved aronud this year due to the redevelopment of Longchamp. The Guineas has moved to Deauville and I've had a crack at deciphering the form for the 3yo colts.

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Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas)
Group 1, 3yo colts,
approx €500,000
1600m
1620 local, 1520 BST, 0020 AEST


Zarak - largely favourite on his breeding, and could you blame them? By Dubawi out of super filly Zarkava, he's two from two and still untapped. In the Prix de la Croix de Chavaux, he was pushed out hands'n'heels by Soumillon to beat George Patton by a neck. Both were making their seasonal debuts and the margin between was about the same as it was throughout the race, Zarak went right to make his challenge, the runner-up went to the left (and kept throwing his head to the left). Priceless breeding, the combination of de Royer-Dupre and Soumillon, and scope for improvement. Tough to beat.

Taareef - ran a close second to Dicton at Chantilly in the G3 Prix de Fontainebleu, seemingly having every chance. Both of them will start around 16/1 which suggests that race wasn't a strong one. No stars in his preceding wins either. Jean-Claude Rouget has three runners here, and looks to be the clear third string.

First Selection - seventh in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket at 66/1, won't start much shorter than that here. Has a 'shit or bust' profile, four wins from eight races with no other placings.

Zelzal - they haven't got near him in two starts to date, but neither of them have been on turf. Ran 22.88 for his last 400m on the Chantilly polytrack last time out, and was held up for some of that. Has a stunning turn of foot and won't have to do much work from the perfect gate of two - his only concern will be getting that gap at the right time. The head of the triumvirate from the J-C Rouget stable. Huge show.

George Patton - ran a close second to Zarak last time out and you could mount a reasonable case for him being able to overturn that. Threw his head around a bit, wasn't stretched out fully and today's track will be firmer (soft last time). Has won here on the turf, has been well supported at double figure odds.

The Gurkha - only made his debut five weeks ago, with a third at Leopardstown swiftly followed by a nine-length romp at Navan, both on wet tracks. Ballydoyle have sent him over as their only runner, which means either a) he wasn't remotely close to Air Force Blue at home, or b) he was too immature to be ready for Newmarket in time. By Galileo, you'd think they might have sent him down the Derby route, but either he's not up to US Army Ranger or the dam side suggests he won't stay. I think this is more a throw at the stumps from O'Brien rather than a genuine winning chance, so to make him equal favourite is dubious. Happy to take him on.

Birchwood - narrowly beaten in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf, beaten by Air Force Blue and Galileo Gold at his previous starts. Godolphin runner looking for place money at best.

Jimmy Two Times - the only runner for Andre Fabre. Beaten over 6f by English-trained horses at last two starts, would need a massive leap with the extra two furlongs and seeing a dry track for the first time to triumph here.

Crazy Horse - undefeated colt from the Gosden stable, winning both starts by a matter of inches, swooping home late. Seems to be a significant step up in class, but Dettori is getting home on broomsticks at the moment, so don't rule him out.

Dicton - busy colt, has won six out of 10 starts, after being diabolically bad in his first three starts. Has a few intertwining formlines - beat Barwod by a short neck at Saint-Cloud, who then ran 1.75L third to Zarak and George Patton. Before that, at Compeigne, he beat King Malpic by six lengths, who later ran second (beaten 4L) to Zelzal. Last two wins have been at Listed and G3 level. Not out of it, but the most exposed of all the contenders.

Moon Trouble - looked out of it at first glance, but perhaps it's not so bad. Ran an upgraded third in the Prix Djebel behind Cheikleljack and Attendu, but had a clear run. It was a heavy track that, the first he'd seen, so perhaps earns some forgiveness there. Last year, he beat Honiara in a maiden here at Deauville, and on debut, started favourite but ran second to future Lagardere winner Ultra. Freedy Head trained, ridden by Barzalona, if you can forgive the heavy track run, then 25/1 might be overly generous.

Alignement - no hope, way out of his depth.

Attendu - don't overlook this one. Has Guyon aboard, the pick of the Laffon-Parias pair. Third over the line last start in the Prix Djebel on a heavy track but suffered interference from both who finished in front of him (winner held the race, second was relegated). Back in November, he ran third in the G1 Criterium International behind Johannes Vermeer and Stormy Antarctic, and then a month earlier in the G1 Lagardere, he wasn't far behind Galileo Gold and Johannes Vermeer.

CONCLUSION
Tough race this, and bookies agree. I can't have any of the UK/Irish visitors. Zelzal has a magic turn of foot and looks hardest to beat.

Zelzal
George Patton
Attendu
Zarak

Back Zelzal at 4/1 or better.

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