The favourites: SENGA and VIA RAVENNA
It is impossible to split Senga and Via Ravenna before this Abu Dhabi Poule d’Essai des Pouliches.
They both carry the colours of their respective breeders.
Senga comes from the breeding operation of the Niarchos Family, and carries the colours of Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd, the Irish side of this international operation, and already winner of this race with the great Miesque in 1987, her daughter East of The Moon in 1994 and Divine Proportions in 2005.
Like the latter, Senga is trained in Chantilly by Pascal Bary. Via Ravenna was herself born in Normandie, at Haras de Saint Pair, developed by the German owner/breeder Andreas Putsch. The white silks with a brown chevron and orange cap have not yet won this race.
Each won her prep
Both fillies each won their prep race for the Abu Dhabi Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. Senga won at Chantilly in the Prix de la Grotte Étalon Kendargent (Gr3).
The short priced favourite of the race, even though she was making her seasonal debut, she only won by a length in front of La Sardane, the outsider of the race, as this Bruno de Montzey trained filly only had a modest victory at Pau to her name.
Undoubtedly, better is still to come from Senga, who was the best of the French two year old fillies last year, due to her fourth place in the Total Prix Marcel Boussac.
However Stéphane Pasquier didn’t want to give his filly a hard race before the big event, and Senga will improve from this. Her Achilles’ heel could be her mentality. She is quick to stress, and with the particular ambience at Deauville, she could be too wound up. Her advantage is her experience, having run three times at 2yo, which is not the case for Via Ravenna.
A filly still new
Via Ravenna, who is one of the two runners of the maestro André Fabre, only made her debut in March, in a race on the all-weather at Chantilly.
She won easily, only by a short head, but effortless. This was enough for him to open doors to Group races for her, and five weeks later, she lined up in the Prix Imprudence (Gr3), over 1.400 meters on the straight at Maisons-Laffitte.
Ridden by the young Vincent Cheminaud, she won classily, with an astonishing acceleration. She has the advantage of having performed over a straight track, on which they need to travelled relaxed, but does she have enough experience to take on this field? Answers on Saturday!
On the pedigree side, both are impressive. Senga is from American bloodlines. Her sire, Blame, won three Group 1’s in the United States, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, however he has not yet sired a Group 1 winner. Beta Leo, the dam of Senga, has only had two runners on the track, and other than Senga, she has produced Bolting, a Listed winner last year. Beta Leo is a descendant of one of the foundation mares of the Niarchos breeding, Coup de Folie. From her there have come three Group 1 winners, Exit to Nowhere, Coup de Génie (the grand-dam of Senga) and Machiavellian, a influential sire. The sire of Via Ravenna also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This is Raven’s Pass, who is still awaiting, like Blame, a first Gr1 winner.
Via Milano, the dam of the filly, was a very good race mare, winner of the Prix des Réservoirs (Group 3) at 2yo, and fourth in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in 2004. She is a confirmed broodmare, with three black type progeny. The best of these was Via Medici, winner of the Prix de Lieurey (Gr3).
One O’Brien could hide another
The runners of the Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien are always dangerous when they come to France. The strongest on form of those lining up on Saturday is Roly Poly, even if her comeback at Newbury, where she was only seventh in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, poses a question. At 2yo, the filly showed a différent side to her, winning a Group 3, a Group 2 and finishing second in the Cheveley Park Stakes (Group 1), one of the best races for 2yo fillies in Great Britain. Even though her race record in less eloquent, her stable companion should not be underestimated; Rain Goddess, a recent fourth in the Fred Darling Stakes, the Group 3 won by Dabyah. Rain Goddess was initially trained by David Wachman, who retired at the end of last year. She then joined the stable of Aidan O’Brien, like a certain Winter, winner of the QIPCO 1.000 Guineas.
The fairytale: HEURISTIQUE
Heuristique carries the colours of a new owner, the Écurie de Montlahuc, developed by the founders of the Big Fernand restaurants, Steve Burggraf. The filly, in the care of a young trainer, Francis-Henri Graffard, gave him a first Listed success last year when winning the Critérium du Languedoc (L) at Toulouse. On her comeback, she finished second in the Prix La Camargo, another Listed. This isn’t enough to give her a favourite’s chance on Saturday, but puts her in with a chance of a place. Heuristique, who was bred at Haras d’Etreham by Pontchartrain Stud, comes from a family that has already produced a winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Torrestrella.
The ”Rouget” of the year: TOULIFAUT
Jean-Claude Rouget will be represented this year by Toulifaut. The Pau trainer has won this race a total of four times, and for the last three years successively: with Elusive Wave in 2009, then with Avenir Certain in 2014, Ervedya in 2015 and La Cressonnière in 2016. Toulifaut, a daughter of the crack Frankel, is not quite the same class as these mares. At the age of 2, she won three consécutive races from three starts, including the Prix d’Aumale (Gr3), in the colours of Andrew-James Smith. During the weekend of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, she passed through the sales ring at Arqana, and the French bloodstock agent Emmanuel de Seroux had the winning bid at 1,9 million euros on behalf of the great Japanese owner/breeder Katsumi Yoshida. In her new colours, she went to the Total Prix Marcel Boussac where she took eight place, not having the best run in the straight. On her seasonal comeback, still not quite come to hand, Toulifaut was fourth in the Prix de la Grotte Étalon Kendargent. She is better than that performance, but it is difficult to envisage her winning.
The unbeaten: WAJNAH
Wajnah is the big question mark in the race. Trained by François Rohaut (who is also her breeder, in partnership with Haras de Saint Pair) she has only run twice, at Bordeaux, for two wins. She is taking a big step up in class this Saturday, as she has only faced horses of moderate ability up until now…. Unless the form of her last race works out, in which she beat a certain La Sardane, who took Senga to the line in the Prix de la Grotte Étalon Kendargent ! Wajnah carries the colours of the Qatari’s Al Shaqab Racing, who have become a major player on the international stage in a few short years. Her sister, Baïne, was second in this race in 2010, also trained by François Rohaut. The Pau trainer has won this race twice, with Tie Black in 2006 and Torrestrella in 2004. The trainer has a great reputation for bringing his horses along progressively to the big day. So Wajnah is one to look out for, a daughter of the Australian stallion Redoute’s Choice, who stood for two seasons at Haras de Bonneval, the property of His Highness the Aga Khan.
Alidar Utemuratov, the owner of Festive, put out 32.400 € last Wednesday to enter his filly at the last minute. This is called a supplementary entry. Festive, who is trained by Éric SaintMartin (son of the legendary Yves Saint-Martin and he himself a great jockey, winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Urban Sea), won on her debut this winter at Cagnes-sur-Mer. She was then third in a Class 1 (the race just below Listed class) and then fourth at MaisonsLaffitte, at the same level. On paper, her performances give her very little chance, but the confidence of her connections suggests she could be a danger.
The German: DÉLECTATION
Like Wajnah, Délectation will line up in th trace unbeaten. This filly, who is owned by Australian Bloodstock (an Australian syndicate who have won the biggest race of their nation, the Melbourne Cup, with a German horse, Protectionist) is trained in Germany by Andreas Wohler, although she only came to him this year. She has three wins for as many runs, and is coming off a success in the Karin Baronin Von Ullmann – Schwarzgold Rennen (Group 3). She will be ridden by Eduardo Pedroza, coming back from a fruitful winter in Qatar.
The record time in the Abu Dhabi Poule d’Essai des Pouliches has been held since 2013 by
Flotilla, who ran the 1.600m of the race in 1’34’’77. It should be emphasised that this time
was run at Longchamp: the Poules d’Essai was transferred to Deauville in 2016 and 2017 due
to the renovation works at the Bois de Boulogne racetrack.
Number of runners
With 18 runners, the 2017 edition is, after those of 2013 (20) and 1912 (19), one of the
largest fields since the creation of the race in 1840. One has to go back to 1986 and 1924 to
find the same number of competitors.
Four fillies will line up as yet unbeaten: Via Ravenna, Cristal Fizz, Delectation and Wajnah.
A certain Madelia, who did not run at 2, managed to win this race having only debuted in
April. She was still unbeaten the night after the Poule d’Essai when beating the duo of
Beaune and Durtal who could not be split on the line. She then backed that up when
winning the Prix de Diane 1977.
Last year, La Cressonnière came into the race unbeaten as did Avenir Certain, who won the
previous year, and like nine other winners of this race in the last 30 years.
The road to the race
Since the creation of the Prix Imprudence, five of it’s victors went on to lift the Poule
d’Essai : Solitude, Elusive Wave, Ervedya. As for Miesque and Ravinella, they did not just
win the Poule but also, fifteen days earlier, win the 1.000 Guineas at Newmarket. Via
Ravenna was this year’s winner of the prep race at Maisons-Laffitte.
Since it’s inauguration, twenty winners of the Prix de la Grotte have gone on to confirm in
the Poule d’Essai. Of these, six went on to win the Prix de Diane next time out: Golden Lilac,
Zarkava, Gazala, La Sega, Apollonia. Divine Proportions also is part of this illustrious group,
a filly who carried the colours of the Niarchos Family and trained by Pascal Bary, as is Senga,
winner of the Prix de la Grotte 2017.
Trained by Eric Saint-Martin, Festive was supplemented on Thursday. This is also the case for
Torrestrella, who won in 2004. She is the only supplemented filly ever to have won the race.
A victorious seasonal debut
Two English fillies are making their seasonal debut in this Poule: Asidious Alexander and
Cristal Fizz. Pearl Bracelet won this race on her seasonal debut in 1989, and she had only run
once at 2 years old, for a third place. Flotilla made a winning comeback in the 2013 edition
after her exploits in the Breeders’Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa-Anita.
After a win in the Critérium des Pouliches, a certain Allez France took her Poule on her
comeback, as did Dictaway, winner in 1955. Coronation made a victorious return to
compétition in the Poule (sharing her success with her stable companion, Galgala, also on
her comeback) before going down to Musidora in the Oaks. In the Autumn, she won the Prix
de l’Arc de Triomphe. The winners of the following two runnings of the race, Corejada and
Djelfa were also having their seasonal debut for Marcel Boussac.
The German trainer Andreas Wölher inherited a filly from England in April, Delectation. For
her seasonal debut, she won the Schwarzgold Rennen (Gr.3 and ex German Poule d’Essai)
over a mile at Cologne. To this day, the French Guineas has never been won by a German
filly. The only foreign winners come from England (4) or Ireland (the home of Rose Gypsy,
trained by Aidan O’Brien).