The Deauville Festival continues with high class action on Sunday, when the big race on the card is the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 ½ furlongs, an intriguing distance which often tempts top class sprinters and seven furlong specialists.
The 6 year old Love Spirit heads the field and takes an enormous leap in class, having plied his trade for most of his career in handicaps. The Louis Baudron gelding reached a career high when beating Finsbury Square by a length in a Listed contest at Maisons-Laffitte in late April, but was last of 5 behind Attendu in a Deauville Group 3 over 7 furlongs, in early June. At the end of June he ran another belter in the Group 3 Prix de Ris-Orangis, back at Maisons-Laffitte, finishing a short head second of 8 to Damila.
Gordon Lord Byron brings proven Group 1 quality to the table here but needs improvement on his recent starts. The 8 year old returned in the Group 3 Gladness Stakes at the Curragh in early April, but put in a poor run to finish 18 lengths last of 8 to Onenightidreamed. A month later he contested the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at the same track, but could only manage 2 ½ lengths 6th of 7 to Mobsta. In mid-June he was again lack lustre in the Group 3 Ballycorus Stakes at Leopardstown, coming home 9 lengths fifth of 6 to Dick Whittington. He then took a big drop in class for a minor race at Tipperary in late June, gaining a confidence-boosting ½ a length victory over Elleval over 7 ½ furlongs. That seemed to work the oracle and Gordon Lord Byron was back in fine form to land the Group 2 Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh in mid-July, beating Sovereign Debt by ½ a length.
Signs Of Blessing was unplaced in all four starts during 2015, but has looked much improved this year. The Francois Rohaut trained 5 year old landed a conditions race in Chantilly in March, before slamming Finsbury Square by 6 lengths in a Listed race at Fontainebleau later that month. That form was turned around in the Group 3 Prix de Saint-Georges at Deauville in mid-May, when he finished 2 lengths fifth of 10 to Finsbury Square. The following month he headed to Royal Ascot for the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, running a cracker to finish ½ a length third of 9 behind Twilight Son.
Dutch Connection proved a very classy individual last season and bids to go one place better in this race than 2015. The Charlie Hills trained 4 year old colt made his comeback in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas last May and ran a reasonable, if unspectacular race when 7 ¾ lengths seventh to Gleneagles at a time when his stable was quieter than now. He then dropped down to 7 furlongs for the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and came back to his best form to beat Fadhayyil by ½ a length. In July Dutch Connection was sent to Chantilly for the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat over a mile, putting up a fine performance to finish ½ a length second of 8 to Territories. Later that month he was second again, beaten ½ a length by Toormore in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He had just one more race, when contesting the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in Keeneland in early October, finishing 3 ½ lengths fifth of 12 to Grand Arch. He made a fine return to action when a battling ¼ of a length second of 7 to old rival Toormore in the Group 2 bet365 Mile at Sandown Park in late April. The following month he took his chance in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, but was a disappointing 21 lengths 9th of 12 to Belardo. In early July he ran much better in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot, finishing 2 ¼ lengths second of 10 to Mutakayyef and at the end of that month he confirmed his improvement when beating Home Of The Berave by 1 ¾ lengths in the 7 furlong, Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He now drops in trip.
Gold-Fun has proved tremendously consistent in recent times and has not finished out of the first four in his last 9 starts in Hong Kong. The Richard Gibson trained 7 year old won the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint at Sha Tin last November, beating Peniaphobia by 1 ¼ lengths. He was ½ a length second to that horse in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint in December and in late January finished 1 ½ lengths second of 12 to Aerovelocity in a Listed contest at Sha Tin. He disappointed in his next two races, including when finishing 2 ¼ lengths fourth of 14 to Chautauqua in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize in early May. However, he was a revelation at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes in June, finishing ¼ of a length second of 9 to Twilight Son in a thrilling race. Connections subsequently resisted the temptation to head to the July Cup, preferring to target this race.
Mobsta is lightly-raced and has proved most consistent so far. The Mick Channon trained 4 year old landed a Newmarket conditions race last October by a neck from Apache Storm but was well beaten when 5 ¼ lengths 8th of 14 to Jack Dexter in a Listed race at Doncaster the following month. He made a superb return to action to win the Listed Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster in early April, beating Suedois by a length. Twelve days later he ran a well beaten 7 lengths 9th of 11 to Magical Memory in the Group 3 Abernant Stakes at Newmarket. However, he came back to form in late May when he landed the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh by a head from Flight Risk and has not raced since.
The lightly-raced The Right Man comes here with an excellent record of four victories and two seconds in just six career starts. The 4 year old son of Lope De Vega won his first three starts last year before running ¼ of a length second of 8 to Suedois in a Deauville Group 3 contest in late August. He was not seen out again until landing a minor contest at Fontainebleau in late April and last time out again ran well when a head second of 10 to Justineo in a Listed race at Deauville in early June.
Suedois is a fascinating addition to the David O’Meara team for 2016 and confirmed himself a smart horse with a superb effort in the Group 1 July Cup. This 5 year old was successful three times in France last year, most notably when landing a Deauville Group 3 in late August by a neck from The Right Man, in very soft ground. He stepped up to 7 furlongs for the Group 1 Prix de la Foret on his final start, finishing 5 ½ lengths 8th of 13 to the outstanding Make Believe. He made his debut for O’Meara in the Listed Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster in early April and ran on strongly to finish a length second of 13 to Mobsta. In May he ran a belter in the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes, finishing ½ a length second of 12 to Magical Memory. He ran another terrific race in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, coming home ¾ of a length fifth of 9 to Twilight Son. The following month he travelled to Newmarket for the July Cup, running 2 lengths second of 18 to Limato; a performance which if replicated, would give him a big chance here.
The 3 year old Black Max had just the one start as a juvenile when unplaced, but developed into a progressive young horse this spring. The son of Fuisse landed three successive victories up to early May and then ran 3 lengths second of 5 to Time Warp in a listed race at Saint-Cloud later that month. He was second at the same track on his most recent start, coming home ¼ of a length behind Ghaaly in another Listed contest in early July.
Jimmy Two Times proved a useful juvenile and showed that he had progressed at three when running a head second of 14 to Quiet Reflection in a Chantilly Group 3 in early April. The Andre Fabre colt was a well beaten 10th behind The Gurkha in the Poule D’Essai des Poulains at Deauville in May, but has since dropped in trip and won his last two starts. In early June he landed a Listed contest at Deauville by 1 ¾ lengths from Nordic Dream and he followed-up with a length victory over Jallota in the Group 3 Prix de la Porte Maillot at the same track in early July.
Donjuan Triumphant ran with promise but failed to register a victory in his first 4 starts of his juvenile campaign. The Richard Fahey trained son of Dream Ahead made up for lost time in his last 3 starts however. Having placed on his initial 4 starts, he finally got off the mark at Ayr in September, when winning a nursery by 3 ¼ lengths from Flying Pursuit. In early October he landed the Listed Rockingham Stakes at York by 1 ¼ lengths from the useful Dhahmaan, but it was his latest performance that made people sit up. He headed over to France for the Group 2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte, revelling in the soft ground and drawing 5 ½ lengths clear of Dressed In Fur. He stepped up in class and trip for his final run of 2015, finishing 2 ¾ lengths fourth of 8 to Johannes Vermeer in the Group 1 Criterium International over a mile in heavy ground at Saint-Cloud last November. He made a very pleasing return when 3 ¾ lengths second of 7 to Quiet Reflection in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock Park. The following month he again was no match for that filly when finishing 5 ½ lengths 9th of 10 in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
Ross Castle was in hot form in the spring but as he has stepped up in class, has found things tougher. The Matthieu Palussiere colt proved a remarkable improver, and was seeking a hat-trick of victories when lining up for the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. The son of Bushranger was still a maiden after 10 races as a juvenile last year, but opened his account in a minor contest at Deauville in January. Three further defeats followed before he added a minor contest at Chantilly in late April. He followed that win up with his biggest success, as he landed the Group 3 Prix Texanita over 5 ½ furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte in mid-May, beating Money Maker by a short neck. He then headed to the Royal Meeting but finished 18 lengths 12th of 19 to Ribchester. A couple of weeks later he contested a Group 3 at Maisons-Laffitte, coming home 3 lengths fifth of 8 to Damila.
Gifted Master put together a prolific streak of victories before his defeat at Haydock Park in May and is now bidding to regain the winning thread. The Hugo Palmer trained son of Kodiac was a 4 length winner on debut at Newmarket in mid-April. Towards the end of that month he was a well beaten fourth of 7 to Log Out Island at Ascot, but showed plenty of ability back at Newmarket in mid-May, to finish just ¾ of a length behind the top class Buratino. He was back to winning ways in a minor contest at Newcastle in late June, easily accounting for Quick N Quirky by 3 lengths, but was not seen out for more than 3 months afterwards. He finally reappeared in a valuable Tattersalls Sales race in early October, having been gelded, and brilliantly disposed of Royal Ascot winner Waterloo Bridge by 4 ½ lengths with a bold front running display. Just a week later, he returned to Newmarket for the Group 3 Vision Autumn Stakes over a mile and again made all to beat Beacon Rock by ½ a length. Gifted Master returned to action on the Rowley Mile in another valuable Tattersalls Sales contest – dropping back down to 6 furlongs. The outcome was very much the same however, as he made all and comfortably repelled Waterloo Bridge by 3 ½ lengths. A couple of weeks later he again blew away his opposition from the front in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot, beating Dream Dubai by 2 ¼ lengths. He then headed to Haydock Park for the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes in late May, and faded to finish 4 lengths third of 7 to Quiet Reflection, although he appeared to stay on again late on. He then contested the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and took his customary front-running position, before fading out of contention and coming home 8 lengths 9th of 19 behind Ribchester. In late July he again tried 7 furlongs in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood, finishing 3 ½ lengths third of 8 behind Dutch Connection and he now drops back down in trip.
The German trained Schang takes a big step up in trip, having won four of his last five starts. The son of Contat landed a Listed race at San Siro by a length from Zapel in early June. A month later he added a Group 3 contest at Hamburg, when beating Fly First by an impressive 3 ¼ lengths.
Attendu proved a very useful juvenile last year and was encouraging on his return. The Carlos Laffon-Parias trained son of Acclamation ran with promise on debut, to finish 2 lengths second of 8 to Omar Bradley in a Deauville maiden in late July. He returned to Deauville the following month and got off the mark with a 2 lengths victory over Lefortovo in another maiden. Attendu then stepped up to Group 3 level for the Prix La Rochette at Longchamp in early September, beating Lawmaking by a head. He finished 3 ½ lengths 8th of 11 to Ultra in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp in early October. The following month he ran a lot better in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud, finishing 1 ¾ lengths third of 8 to Johannes Vermeer. He returned to action in the Group 3 Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte in early April, finishing 1 ¼ lengths second of 7 to Cheikeljack after the disqualification of Ribchester. The following month he was a disappointing 9th of 13 to The Gurkha in the French 2,000 Guineas at Deauville, but he bounced back to form in early June, with a 2 lengths defeat of the top class mare Esoterique in a Group 3 race at the same track. He appears to have been patiently waited with since then, with this race in mind.
Damila completes the field and looks to face a tough task, although she caused a shock on her latest start. The 3 year old daughter of Milanais won at Deauville last August before running a head second of 7 to Aboulie in a Listed race at Maisons-Laffitte in September. She was well beaten on her return at Chantilly in mid-March and the following month finished 4 ½ lengths 6th of 11 to Spectre in the Group 3 Prix Imprudence. In mid-May she dropped down to 5 ½ furlongs for the Group 3 Prix Texanita at the same Maisons-Laffitte track, running well to finish 1 ½ lengths third of 10 to Ross Castle. In early June she contested the Group 2 Prix du Gros-Chene at Chantilly, finishing 4 lengths 6th of 8 to Son Cesio. However, in late June she put up the performance of her career to date at Maisons-Laffitte, landing the Group 3 Prix de Ris-Orangis by a short head from Love Spirit. This is a lot tougher.