Christopher Head will be looking to uphold national pride when the exciting Ramatuelle takes her chance in the Sumbe Prix Morny on Sunday.
The daughter of Justify has shown real star quality in her four outings so far and having won the Group Three Prix du Bois by an emphatic five lengths at Chantilly in June, returned to the track to add the Prix Robert Papin in style, winning by an eased-down four lengths.
Not afraid to take on the colts, the speedy youngster now faces off against some of the best juveniles in Europe as she bids to become just the second French-trained winner of the Deauville contest since 2011.
“We can’t wait to go to the Morny with her and it has been part of the plan since the beginning,” said her trainer.
“I think she’s the type of horse who can box with this calibre of horse at this time in the season.
“There is going to be two fillies, two French horses and lots of good opposition, but she’s doing fine and all the lights are green for the Morny.”
Head has established himself as a leading trainer thanks to the exploits of the popular dual-Classic winner Blue Rose Cen and now dreams of Ramatuelle also becoming a household name.
That task is made all the more possible by the fact she is co-owned by former NBA star Tony Parker, with Ramatuelle donning black and silver silks based on his former championship-winning team the San Antonio Spurs.
Head added: “It will be an honour to bring a new idol into racing and I feel lucky to have the confidence of owners who will send me these tremendous horses.”
Aidan O’Brien saddled Blackbeard to land this 12 months ago and this time relies on the unbeaten Coventry Stakes winner River Tiber, who crosses the Channel following an interrupted preparation that has left his trainer openly concerned about his chance.
“He’s good, I’m worried that he missed 10 days so he will run with a cloud over him,” said O’Brien.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he did get tired. We are taking a chance on running him back because if he doesn’t run now he won’t be out until the autumn.
“He came sounder quicker than we thought he would, he did a piece of work and that’s why we let him take his chance, but there is a cloud over him. If he did run disappointing I wouldn’t be surprised.
“He was lame for seven days, he came back sound but he missed all the work.”
River Tiber is joined by fellow Irish raider and Norfolk Stakes hero Valiant Force, who bids to add to trainer Adrian Murray’s maiden Group One victory in last Saturday’s Phoenix Stakes.
“We’re very happy with him and we worked him at the Curragh last week alongside Bucanero Fuerte and he worked very well,” said the colt’s handler.
“He would prefer good ground. Bucanero would like to get his toe in, but Valiant Force would be a better horse on quick ground. You don’t know until you run them but we think that.
“He hit the line well over five at Ascot, which is a strong five, so he should be OK stepping up in trip.”
It has been a halcyon summer for Murray, who thanks to his link-up with owners Amo Racing has been to the winner’s enclosure at Royal Ascot and now has horses capable of competing at the highest level.
“To have two good horses like we have is a dream come true and something we never thought would happen,” he added.
“We’re lucky that we have Robson (Aguiar) who is a great man at sourcing these horses and has a great track record of buying horses which turn into nice horses, so a big part of the success is down to him.”
Ramatuelle is one of two French-trained runners in the line-up alongside Andre Fabre’s Sajir, who was no match for Karl Burke’s Elite Status in the Prix de Cabourg over track and trip last month, with that winner also now given a shot at the big time by the Spigot Lodge handler.
Burke said: “I’m very happy with him, he looks in great shape and will improve from his Group Three there a few weeks ago. But he will need to in what looks a very good renewal.”
Jasour impressed when winning the July Stakes at Newmarket and Clive Cox has always had one eye on this contest for his talented son of Havana Grey.
Such was Cox’s angst to head here in tip-top form, he swerved an engagement in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood on account of testing conditions, and now makes the trip to France in rude health.
“It’s a competitive heat as you would expect and I’m really happy with him, he’s in excellent form,” said Cox.
“Conditions were good for us earlier in the week and I know there’s a drop of rain about, but hopefully conditions will be OK.
“We were unhappy to run at Goodwood with a penalty in what was effectively heavy ground and with this race on the horizon it was a sensible manoeuvre not to run him there. I’m very happy he is in good form and we’re looking forward to seeing him run in a Group One.”
Cox tasted success in this race with Reckless Abandon in 2012, and having gone close with some of his stable stars since, is now hoping to add his name to the roll of honour once again.
“We’ve been placed in the race since winning it with Reckless Abandon. Nando Parrado and Golden Horde ran well in the race, as well as Tis Marvellous,” added Cox.
“I’m just thrilled I have a horse of this calibre to be running in the race again and of course it would mean the world to be getting involved in the finish, which we hope he will.”
It was Simon and Ed Crisford’s Vandeek who took advantage of Jasour’s absence to land a telling blow in the Richmond Stakes.
The unbeaten youngster is now two from two and having not put a foot wrong so far, has earned his shot at this high-class renewal of the six-furlong event.
“He has done nothing wrong and won his only two races so far,” said Chris Wall, racing manager for owners KHK Racing Ltd.
“Last time, he won the Richmond at Goodwood and this is a much tougher test with plenty of stakes form from Europe in it.
“We’re not kidding ourselves, we know we’re in at the deep end, but he’s done nothing but improve and physically he is getting stronger all the time.
“The ground at Goodwood last time was very soft and while he coped with that, I think he will be better on a sounder surface.
“The hope is he can be competitive and we will know where we stack up against the others – and if he runs his race, I would like to think he will be getting amongst them a bit anyway.
“He’s earned his place in Group One company by winning a Group Two and I think he’ll acquit himself well and not let the side down. I think he’s going to run a nice race.”