The 2019 renewal of the Darley Prix Morny (Gr1), a juvenile 6 furlongs championship run this Sunday on the Deauville straight course, takes place this year for the 149th time. It is also the final stage of the Darley Series. The first two stages, the Darley Prix Robert Papin (Gr2) and the Darley Prix de Cabourg (Gr3), returned respectively to A’Ali (Society Rock) and Earthlight (Shamardal). Both are among the eight runners for the final event, which this season more than ever deserves its status of championship: three of their rivals have just won at group level in Great Britain and Ireland, and the limits of the other three have not been reached yet.
Here is their resume …
A’ALI (Society Rock)
Despite a messy start, A’Ali finally took the Darley Prix Robert Papin (Gr2) on July 21st. Trained by Simon Crisford in Britain, he was able to check the Darley Prix Morny course, since this edition of the “Robert Papin” had to be relocated to Normandy instead of Maisons-Laffitte. This time, serious things really start for A’Ali, because the opposition will be much higher than in the “Robert Papin. The son of Society Rock – a top sprinter in recent years – is nevertheless a point of support in this edition of the Morny. A victory on his part would allow him to do as well as Reckless Abandon who, in 2012, won the “Morny” after winning the Norkfolk Stakes (Gr2) Royal Ascot, then the “Robert Papin”. A’Ali won the first two named races and tries to pocket the third on Sunday.
GOLDEN HORDE (Lethal Force)
Trained in England by Clive Cox, who saddled the 2012 winner of the race Reckless Abandon (2012), Golden Horde is one of the main contenders. Fifth at Royal Ascot in the Coventry Stakes (Gr2 – the best 2yo’s race of the meeting), he has since won the Qatar Richmond Stakes (Gr2) at Glorious Goodwood. Ridden close to the pace that day, he gave everything in the final stages in an epic fight with Threat (the Coventry Stakes’ 2nd) and these two beat the 3rd placed Royal Dornoch by over three lengths. The Richmond Stakes always goes for a good one: in 2015, Shalaa prevailed there before the Morny. Already a strong, mature type despite his inexperience, Golden Horde should feature amongst the race’s favourites.
Since 2000, the French only won the Morny three times and the last one dates back to 2011 with Dabirsim’s victory. The best suited to end this foreign hegemony this year is Earthlight. He is trained by André Fabre, who has already won the Morny, but not since Zafonic in 1992. So far, Earthlight is spotless. After two very easy wins, he brilliantly passed his Group level test in the Darley Prix de Cabourg (Gr3), flying past an easy Prix Roland of Chambure (Listed) winner to score handily. Earthlight is perhaps champion material, and so we will see on Sunday.
ROYAL DORNOCH (Gleneagles)
Coming from Gleneagles’ first crop – which already produced a few Group winners – Royal Dornoch has yet to do as well as his stablemate Arizona. He has had a good run in Goodwood’s Qatar Richmond Stakes (Gr2), finishing third, but was well beaten by Golden Horde, whom he meets again on Sunday. Royal Dornoch finds this Sunday a few opponents better than him and it would be a real surprise if he managed to win.
ARIZONA (No Nay Never)
Surprisingly, Ireland’s number one trainer Aidan O’Brien has not won the Darley Prix Morny since 2001 and Johannesburg. This year, he will saddle Arizona, a son of the American sire No Nay Never who won the Morny in 2013 for trainer Wesley Ward. From the same female line than Dabirsim, Arizona has had a promising start. He rose to the top of the 2-year-old crop on June 18 when he took the Coventry Stakes (Gr2) at Royal Ascot. Announced at first as a runner on August 9th in the Phoenix Stakes (Gr1) at the Curragh, Arizona has finally avoided the very good Siskin. What does it mean? Did his entourage feel that SIskin was unbeatable at The Curragh and that the Morny was could make an easier getaway?
With only one race behind him, Devil is the least experienced runner in this Darley Prix Morny. On July 27th, at the opening of the Deauville meeting, Devil nicely won the Arqana Prix de Tancarville, on the same course as the Morny. It is not uncommon to see winners of the Tancarville -a race for well-regarded beginners- try their luck directly in the Morny, but the double becomes increasingly rare. Devil trainer Freddy Head has already tried, with Naaqoos in 2008 (he would be fifth of the Morny). The challenge is difficult for Devil, but if he wins a place on the podium, it will colt that this horse belonging to the great German family of Borgia promises to be one of the best 2 years of the season.
RAFFLE PRIZE (Slade Power)
Last year, the filly Pretty Pollyanna won the Darley Prix Morny after leaving a big impression at the Newmarket July meeting in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes (Gr2). This year, the winner of the Newmarket Group 2 is called Raffle Prize and she is starting this Sunday in the Morny. On July 12, Raffle Prize was out of reach, controlling the race almost from one end to the other. This success followed the one obtained from a lead at Royal Ascot in the Queen Mary Stakes (Gr2), over 5 furlongs. This was her trainer Mark Johnston’s second win in the Ascot Royal Group 2; the first was recorded in 2003 with the great champion Attraction. If Raffle Prize has as much talent as Attraction, she can pretend with Frankie Dettori on board, already five times a Morny winner.
Aroha is still a maiden after six races but this Kodiac filly is not out of contention here. In June, she was third in the Albany Stakes (Gr3), the best race for 2-year-old fillies at Royal Ascot, and she confirmed in late July, finishing second in the Princess Margaret Keeneland Stakes (Gr3), again at Ascot. This time, Aroha will also find the colts and Europe’s 2-year speed elite. She will have to raise her game accordingly.
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