Directly the moment winning jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot hurled his helmet into the crowd it became obvious youth was having its day in the sun, as Channel made her rising star of a trainer and ‘new recruit’ owner Classic heroes in the 2100m Group 1 Prix de Diane, the French Oaks, at Chantilly. Boudot needed to be at his strongest to drive Channel to a head victory over Commes, now a narrow runner-up in two Classics, while the favourite Siyarafina ran on to be sixth, her draw in stall 16 of 16 effectively ending her chance. “I was 80% sure we’d won passing the post but I can’t say I was absolutely certain,” said the 26yo Boudot. “I felt like I was ahead and that we’d won bar an unfortunate nod of the head. Once I knew we’d won it was a huge moment.”
Trainer Francis Graffard said he found the closing stages here ‘strangely calming’ as he secured his first Classic triumph. Graffard said: “When I saw the way she accelerated and that nothing else was really coming after her, I knew she wouldn’t stop. I felt she would run all the way to the line and that’s exactly what she did.” Graffard continued: “I didn’t make a hatful of Classic entries back in February but she’d already done a really nice piece of work and I talked to Bertrand le Metayer, who bought Channel and told him I thought it was worth putting her in. So this race has been in my mind since the start of the year.” No firm plans will be made regarding the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, for which she is not yet entered, but one factor that will weigh in favour of supplementing her will be Graffard’s confidence an extra furlong and a half is not beyond her limits.
Channel is the first Thoroughbred to run in the colours of businessman Samuel de Barros, who described his involvement in racing as an affair of the heart, having been drawn in by wife Elodie, a successful breeder in the trotting world. “I was living a comfortable life in Paris but love struck and the rest is history,” he said. “It’s a story of love and of a gang of ‘forty somethings’.”
Commes came up just short for the Jockey Club-winning combination of Cristian Demuro and Jean-Claude Rouget, whose Etoile also came charging home in fourth. “Commes ran well although there was never really a moment when I thought she really accelerated,” said Rouget. “To be beaten a head or a short head is part of racing and I have to congratulate the winner.” Charlie Appleby and James Doyle headed to the most important week of the summer, Royal Ascot, with the wind in their sails after picking up a fine double on the Prix de Diane undercard. Al Hilalee found things happening a bit quick for him in the 2000 Guineas but, having then run much better when stepped up in trip, may have found his ideal distance when landing the Group 2 Prix Hocquart over 2400m.
“It’s a big crowd and very warm so he was looking around a bit but when I put him under maximum pressure he hit the line well,” Doyle said after his mount had held the late challenges of Soft Light and Khagan by a neck and the same. “He stays this trip very well and it’s improved him. He is learning all the time and he clearly loves being out in front and doing his own thing.” Vintager claimed a hard fought success in the 1600m Group 3 Prix Bertrand du Breuil at the expense of Trais Fluors, scoring a first win since joining Godolphin from David Menuisier. “The drop back in trip was the key along with the fast pace,” said Doyle. “The second horse sets a good level of form and is no slouch. We have to be pretty pleased and there is no reason why he can’t keep building on that.
“It took us a little time to work him out when he joined us and he’s not entirely straightforward. But he seems to be getting his act together.” Earlier John Gosden was in on the act when Azano landed the 1400m Group 3 Prix Paul de Moussac under a well judged ride from Rab Havlin. Gosden’s son Thady gave credit to owner Martin Taylor for picking out the race and connections will seriously consider the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at the start of July. “We bred him and we still have the mare at home as well as a Sea The Stars brother,” said Taylor. “We could have gone to the Jersey at Royal Ascot but, when I looked at it, possibly that was a tougher race. It was a little bit of a worry whether he would stay but round the bend helped him and he certainly wasn’t stopping at the end. “We’ll obviously have to speak with the trainer but the Jean Prat is an obvious target. It’s a straight seven at Deauville and he likes a bit of cut in the ground so we feel it’s the perfect race for him.”