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La Rochette : A fresh start to higher grounds

The first Sunday meeting of the season in Paris Longchamp is filled with hopeful youngsters, as three important races restricted to two-year-olds take place. These are two important beginners’ races, the Prix de Fontenoy for colts and the Prix de la Cascade for fillies, both of which are run over a mile. Romancière and Matematica almost dead-heated last year, Left Hand and Arc fancy Waldgeist also scored earlier in these.

As for the Prix La Rochette (Gr3), it is run over 7 furlongs, like the Prix Thomas Bryon (Gr3), scheduled the day before the Arc weekend. However, it is rather designed to get colts and fillies ready for their big races in the Arc weekend, the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère (Gr1) and the Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac (Gr1), for fillies only. This path was taken by Karakontie, winner of La Rochette and the Lagardere in 2013, then of the French 2,000 Guineas (Gr1) and the Breeders’Cup Mile (Gr1) the following season. French top sire Siyouni finished second in La Rochette behind Buzzword, whom he beat in the Grand Criterium, while Early March won this first round but finished second, like Sofast, in the big one. On the other hand, the fillies en route to the Marcel Boussac are more scarce here, even though the fourth-placed of the last edition, Lily’s Candle, managed to win the Critérium des Pouliches five weeks later.

It does not happen every year, but the La Rochette is quite regularly the first top mark in a great career.

Is any of the eight contenders gathered this year a potential winner of the championships? All runners are trained in France, which will make it easier to find out who’s who and what’s everyone worth. Only two have raced more than three times, the Marseilles-trained Patzefredo (Penny’s Picnic), already twice beaten at Listed level, and Kenway (Galiway), who won the Listed Prix des Jouvenceaux et des Jouvencelles at Vichy on this distance last time out. Both race for the Chehboub family’s Haras de la Gousserie and are trained by in-form Frederic Rossi, who said that Patzefredo would set the pace for his stablemate.

Kenway is the best-rated in the race with a 103lbs tag, two pounds higher than that of the filly Les Hogues (Bated Breath), who receives three pounds as a female and is therefore – in theory – a pound above her rival in the race. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, she has run three times, recently at the Listed level beating Happy Béré, who confirmed by winning a Listed event afterwards. Les Hogues, who races for Gerard Augustin-Normand, has meanwhile been beaten by the only Earthlight, recently winner of the Darley Prix Morny (Gr1).

Also trained by Rouget, Sujet Libre (Hurricane Cat) will run for the fourth time too. He won his first two races before being well defeated at Clairefontaine by the German colt Alson, who had been beaten fair and square by Les Hogues previously.

Wooded (Wootton Bassett) has just won for his second outing on soft ground in Deauville. Venantimi (Milanais) won his first race at La Teste for his third outing and his first try over 7 furlongs. He then beat Big Reaction (Zoffany), who had just won for his debut and is trying her luck again here.

Femina (Siyouni) is entered here by trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias for Wertheimer & Frère after her victorious debut on the all-weather. It’s a big leap for her, but her trainer won this with Attendu in 2015 only after his first win, and for the same connections …

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