If you want to know how much of a disadvantage a wide draw is over one mile and 2 1/2 furlongs at Chantilly, just ask Christophe Berglar.
The owner-breeder of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) winner Novellist took one look at stall 17 for his group 2 winner Amazing Grace and decided she would be staying in Cologne this weekend instead of running in the June 20 Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks, G1).
On quick ground the rail is golden around Chantilly’s single right-hand sweep and, while rain has somewhat leveled the playing field, the likes of Saxon Warrior Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary (G1) winner Incarville will need to be ridden for luck from stall 18.
“We’re now in stall 17 and directly inside us are Antoine Griezmann’s horse Natsukashi , Christopher Head’s Sibila Spain, and then Burgarita , so we’e all in the same boat,” said trainer David Smaga. “She’s in very good form and what she did at Longchamp was exceptional, running down the leaders when she was still last passing the Pavilion. She just put her head down and flew. If we get more storms then that could change the calculations with regard to the draw and bring the outside runners into it.”
Tattersalls Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) runner-up Joan of Arc has been handed a plum draw in stall 5 and has the assistance of Coolmore’s new go-to man in France, Ioritz Mendizabal.
She was arguably a little unlucky to be nabbed on the line by stablemate Empress Josephine on desperate ground at the Curragh last month and showed both in the classic and her trial at Leopardstown that she is a very straightforward ride.
Empress Josephine did not really bolster that form when beaten 10 1/2 lengths in the Coronation Stakes (G1) at Ascot on Friday.
And while it would be rash to ever suggest a daughter of Galileo might have stamina doubts, her brother Gleneagles was a miler. Joan of Arc’s sister Happily was only beaten half a length in a blanket finish to this race behind Laurens in 2018 before being dropped back in trip by Aidan O’Brien.
“She’s been very good since the Curragh and it was always the plan to go to the French Oaks after that,” said O’Brien. “She’s progressing nicely and we think the step up in trip will suit her. Ioritz has been very good on St Mark’s Basilica for us this season.”
You could argue that the horse whose form was boosted in the Coronation was Noble Heidi ‘s. She beat Novemba in Germany’s most important race for 2-year-old fillies last October, and was only run down late by Amazing Grace after being asked to burn plenty of energy on the short run to the first turn in the Diana Trial (G2) at Hoppegarten.
Andre Fabre saddles three fillies and Burgarita heads the betting on the basis of her win in the Prix de la Seine.
Plan A for her was the Ribblesdale (G2) at Ascot over one mile and four furlongs before travel issues forced a rethink, and it could be that stablemate Philomene has more basic speed now she returns to this intermediate distance, while she also has a much kinder draw in stall 8.
Similar considerations also dissuaded Jean-Claude Rouget from sending Coeursamba to Britain. No trainer has done such a brilliant job of deciding which of his Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (G1) heroines to step up and which to stay at a mile with. If she stays she may be irresistible, but that remains a big if.
“After the Poule d’Essai I talked about leaving Coeursamba at a mile, but the travel difficulties and cost of supplementing her for Ascot were both considerable, whereas there is good money in the Diane even for a place. She worked very well at the start of the week,” said Rouget.
Of the others to come on from the Pouliches, fourth-placed Sweet Lady looked ready for a step up in trip and is rated only two pounds behind Coeursamba, while Rougir finished fast from an impossible position but her pedigree is that of a miler.
Khalidiya represents connections that have won the Diane with fillies that vault through the ranks quickly and she has avoided the heated battles endured by some of her rivals.
The draw has been unkind to the supplemented Sibila Spain, but she won’t mind cut in the ground and, if they go hard up front, she has a turn of foot that could pick up at least some of the pieces late on.
Chantilly has been far luckier than Ascot so far this week and, despite catching 15 millimeters of rain on Thursday, the ground on Saturday morning was only soft (3.5 on the penetrometer). Localized storms are forecast across France for the weekend, though, and it will be the luck of the draw how much rain, if any, hits the track.