Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois (Group 1)
THERE was no hiding place in last Sunday’s Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques Le Marois, the third fastest renewal in the 101-year history of what has become Europe’s unofficial summer mile championship.
The race told us plenty. Given that Inspiral had just lost her unbeaten record at outrageously short odds in the Falmouth Stakes, it was a gusty call for Team Cheveley Park Stud and John and Thady Gosden to stick with Plan A and, for the first time, both take on the boys and the older generations.
Their boldness saw the home-bred daughter of Frankel redeem herself and, although she won by only two necks, she was clearly superior and might have scored by further if Frankie Dettori had been able to delay his challenge a little.
Light Infantry and Erevann, the second and third, both ran massive personal bests to come home three lengths ahead of the pick of the two Irish challengers, fourth-placed Order Of Australia, who simply underlined what we already know about this admirable five-year-old: he is a solid Group 2 horse who usually runs up to form, especially when aggressively ridden, but finds a couple too good for him when taking on the best.
Poised to pounce
The favourite, Coroebus, was travelling best of all and looked poised to pounce two furlongs out before his run petered out, jockey William Buick allowing him to coast home in the closing stages into fifth place.
Trainer Charlie Appleby was disappointed, suggesting a drop in trip might be in order, but maybe this is as good as Coroebus is.
His two landmark victories have come in the English 2000 Guineas, where he possibly benefited from being on the favoured side of the track, and a very messy running of the St James’s Palace Stakes.
The other Irish hope, State Of Rest, simply did not have the mid-race pace to stay in contact, weakening into eighth.
“He was taken off his feet but we’ll get him back to 10 furlongs and we’ll be fine,” said jockey Shane Crosse, and it is hard to disagree.
The story of the race was that the Japanese raider, Bathrat Leon, set a scorching gallop to cover the first five furlongs in 59.33s and that pace never relented. Order Of Australia had a brief turn in front two and a half furlongs out before Dettori sent Inspiral for home.
Erevann and Light Infanty loomed as dangers but last year’s Champion Two-Year-Old Filly held them off to give both the stable and the rider their third straight Marois triumphs, following Palace Pier’s wins in 2020 and 2021.
Indeed, it was a big moment for Dettori, who was overhauling Freddy Head to become the leading Marois jockey with seven victories, and said: “Inspiral proved herself a true champion today, beating older horses and Guineas winners, probably doing enough to be crowned Champion Three-Year-Old.
“Her Falmouth run left us scratching our heads but her last piece of work was brilliant, which gave us confidence.”
“Last time it was a small field and she didn’t get any cover,” John Gosden added. “The key is getting her to relax.”
“She did that today and, when she wanted to go, Frankie let her and she hit the front too soon. She showed a lot of courage in the closing stages as she could easily have folded.”
“She could run again in either the Matron Stakes or the Sun Chariot but I would be inclined to freshen her up for the QE II [at Ascot on October 15th].
“Eventually I think she’ll get a mile and a quarter and, though I wouldn’t have the Breeders’ Cup on my mind this year, it could be on the cards next season if her owners want to keep her in training.”
That looks a distinct possibility. Patricia Thompson, the proprietor of Cheveley Park for almost 50 years, said: “I would love to see her run again as a four-year-old. We’ve been having a lot of luck this year, including over jumps where we only have a dozen horses in training. It’s quite unbelievable.”
David Simcock, trainer of Light Infantry, seemed genuinely happy despite such a narrow reverse, though his jockey, Jamie Spencer, may not have been quite so upbeat given that the stewards saw fit to hand him a 12-day suspension for overuse of the whip.
“It was a very strong Group 1 so it’s hard to be disappointed, and Light Infantry did everything right,” Simcock said.
“The plan now would be to send him to Australia for the Golden Eagle [an Aus$10 million seven and a half furlong contest at Randwick on October 29th] before running in Europe again next season.”
A delighted Jean-Claude Rouget was also looking ahead to 2023 with Erevann. “For one short moment I thought he was going to win but he’s just not hardened enough for a race of this quality.
“I don’t think you will see him much for the rest of the year but he should be a super four-year-old.”