Chantilly Sunday

3.05pm Qatar Prix du Jockey Club (Group 1) 1m 2f 110y

Will we see the emergence of another superstar to rival last year’s winner, Ace Impact, when 15 colts line up for tomorrow’s Group 1 Qatar Prix du Jockey Club?

Two of the 15, in particular, have more than a whiff of the unbeaten 2023 European Champion about them: Fast Tracker, who won the same prep race (the Listed Prix des Suresnes) which catapulted both Ace Impact and Sottsass to Jockey Club glory, and Arrow Eagle, Ace Impact’s Gleneagles half-brother, successfully introduced to the track at Cagnes in January in the very contest that saw his much-vaunted half-sibling strut his stuff for the first time.

Given that Arrow Eagle was recently defeated by one of tomorrow’s opponents, Sosie, Fast Tracker holds the more compelling claims of the pair.

His winning margin in a four-runner Suresnes was seven lengths, four times that of Ace Impact, and this son of Churchill has subsequently been purchased in a big money private deal by the Qatari ownership group, Wathnan Racing.

It tickles me that this Alex Pantall-trained colt is called ‘Fast Tracker’ when ‘Mudlark’ or ‘Soft Grounder’ might be more appropriate: all of his three career starts have come on a testing surface.

He won’t be subjected to fast conditions tomorrow – rain remains in the air and France Galop is predicting ‘very soft’ going, though racecourses can dry out very quickly at this time of year.

Look elsewhere

My gut feeling, however, is that Fast Tracker’s Suresnes triumph may have come in a race of modest quality and prefer to look elsewhere for the most likely winner, with Andre Fabre’s Alcantor at the top of the list alongside the three overseas raiders: Aidan O’Brien’s Diego Velazquez, the David Menuisier-trained Sunway, and Ghostwriter from the Clive Cox stable.

Alcantor and Diego Velazquez already have classic form as they finished third and fourth, separated by a neck with just three-quarters of a length back to another member of this field, Ramadan, in fifth, in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains.

Alcantor was putting a frankly baffling poor comeback run in the Group 3 Craven Stakes behind him and should relish this step up in trip, though his improvement could well be less than that found by Diego Velazquez, who was making his seasonal return and was forced to come around the outside.

Diego Velazquez is a half-brother to a classy, but stamina-laden, pair of Ballydoyle stablemates in Broome and Point Lonsdale, and this race remains primarily a test of speed, with numerous non-stayers having run well in it in the past, so his lack of a change of gear could prove costly.


Sunway is something of an enigma. His two appearances this season have been unconvincing efforts to say the least, yet Menuisier, who does not seem to be a man with a tendency to believe that all his geese are swans, remains undimmed in his admiration for a colt who beat Alcantor into second when lifting October’s Group 1 Criterium International. He will be equipped with a tongue tie for the first time here.

In the hope that it is not the Poulains, but its English equivalent, the 2000 Guineas, that offers the strongest piece of three-year-old form so far this season, my preference is for Ghostwriter, an Irish-bred son of Invincible Spirit who finished fourth in that Newmarket showpiece despite looking ill-at-ease on the Rowley Mile’s undulations.

The horses directly in front of him, Rosallion and Haatem, have since fought out the finish of the Irish 2000 Guineas, while sixth-placed Inisherin also boosted the form with a Group 2 sprint victory.

Cox was quick to nominate this race as his intended next target after his Newmarket reverse and, though he is a descendant of the brilliant miler Zafonic, Ghostwriter has enough stamina in his pedigree to suggest that a flat extended mile and a quarter should be well within his compass. His blemishless juvenile campaign included a Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes success.

Of the remainder, the one who falls firmly into the ‘could be anything’ category is Look De Vega, easy winner of his only two starts, albeit in minor company, and long the apple of the eyes of his trainers, Carlos and Yann Lerner.


Next Best: Sunway

Rest of the card

In the undercard’s three Group 2 events, the William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour is in much shallower waters than in Hong Kong last time and, bidding to post his first mile and a half success, has Junko to beat in the Grand Prix de Chantilly; the British and French 1000 Guineas form goes on trial in the mile Prix de Sandringham where the sixth in the Newmarket classic, Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Rolica, may edge out the sixth from the cross-channel equivalent, Sparkling Plenty; and, in what continues to look a weak sprint division, the very fast Czech-trained Ponntos, having his eighth run since Christmas, may hold off Albasheer to land the five-furlong Prix du Gros-Chene.