Confidently ridden by Pierre- Charles Boudot, sporting the all royal blue of Godolphin, Persian King ran out the impressive winner of Sunday’s French 2000 Guineas, The Emirates Poule d’Essai des Poulains, seemingly relishing the heavy ground over the 1600m at ParisLongchamp. Having swerved the English equivalent at Newmarket, the 3yo Kingman colt has now won both his starts this year, having made a winning return in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainbleau over this same 1600m. He finished his 2018 juvenile campaign winning the 1600m Group 3 Masar Godolphin Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, defeating Magna Grecia and, in doing so, inflicting the only defeat to date in the career of that horse who won this year’s Newmarket 2000 Guineas for Aidan O’Brien.
Persian King himself has only been beaten once, on debut, when second over 1500m at Deauville before winning his other three 2yo outings and this Classic victory was his fifth consecutive success. He sported the silks of Ballymore Thoroughbreds in all four juvenile outings before Godolphin invested with the pair now owning the exciting prospect in partnership. Settled in midfield, on the rail, the son of Kingman was kept there by Boudot, taking the shortest possible route but, at the cutaway when the track ‘widens’, they found themselves afforded plenty of room with the colt accelerating stylishly to grab the initiative 200m out and never looking likely to be caught.
Fabre, Champion Trainer on no less than 29 occasions, was landing his seventh edition of the race and providing Godolphin a fourth victory in the first of the French Classics and, traditionally, a stepping stone towards the Prix du Jockey Club, the French Derby over 2100m at Chantilly. “The easy ground didn’t help, as the horse has a beautiful action, but he showed courage and consistency,” said Fabre The master trainer added: “He’s a game horse as you can see. He’s in all the big races, but the Prix du Jockey Club is very tempting and he looks like he’d stay another quarter of a mile. “The horses are going well and I’m obviously quite happy,” added the irrepressible handler.
Anthony Stroud, who was representing the winning connections, was also understandably delighted. “The ground wasn’t ideal as he wants good ground,” he said. “But the further he went the better he looked and the Jockey Club looks an ideal race. “For me that’s always looked the right race for him and more importantly, so has Andre. “John Gosden, who trained Kingman, rang me on Saturday and told me not to worry about the ground because it was heavy the day that Kingman won the Marois at Deauville.” Godolphin had never won the fillies’ equivalent, The Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, or French 1000 Guineas but that was remedied, by the narrowest of margins by Castle Lady who denied Commes, who was finishing fast, by a flared nostril.
A homebred 3yo daughter of Shamardal trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, she looked likely to win comfortably when taking up the running about 250m from home under Mickael Barzalona, but was forced to dig deep. As she and Commes flashed past the line, the initial television computer suggested the latter had just prevailed but the decisive judge’s monitor disagreed. Unraced before March, Castle Lady made a winning start to her career in a 1600m maiden on the Chantilly all-weather Polytrack before, a month later, running out the ready winner of the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte over the same 1600m course and distance as the Pouliches. Barzalona said: “It’s always hard. She had to pass one more step, but she has a great mentality, a beautiful action and a big heart, that made the difference.
“My filly settled well and picked up over the last two and a half furlongs. “When she picked up I thought I was going to win the race by five or six lengths, but in front she was a little bit green so that meant there is a lot more to come.” Lisa-Jane Graffard of Godolphin added: “What a day for Godolphin! “Castle Lady did amazingly well to win; she has done nothing but progress all year and there is some margin for yet further improvement. “She is a very straightforward filly and we will sit down and discuss all options for her. “However, it is probable a mile will be her limit and therefore the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot could be her next race. “The trainer was unfazed about running Castle Lady on today’s heavy going, but her pedigree and action suggest she will appreciate better ground.”