Westerner hot fancy to confirm status

WESTERNER will start a warm favourite to confirm his status as the best stayer in Europe when he bids for back-to-back victories in the Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp tomorrow.

Elie Lellouche’s brilliant five-year-old will be taken on by eight rivals in the ‘French St Leger’, including the Hughie Morrison-trained Alcazar and Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Behkera, who finished second and third in last year’s race.

The all-aged Group One is held over an extended mile and seven furlongs of the Paris track.

Like last season, Westerner tuned up with success in the half-a-mile-longer Group One Prix du Cadran on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe day.

The son of Danehill will face a rematch with Cadran second Cut Quartz, whom he beat decisively by three lengths on that occasion.

Royer-Dupre also saddles Le Carre, third that day, who will be partnered by Dominique Boeuf, the man who steered Westerner to victory 12 months ago but was subsequently sacked by owners the Wildenstein family.

Joining Alcazar in the overseas challenge at Longchamp is Willie Mullins’ Holy Orders, who was beaten by nine lengths when fifth in the Cadran. Connections are hopeful he will prefer the easier ground and can finish a lot closer this time

John Gosden’s Vodafone Derby fourth Percussionist travels to France after finishing down the field in the Gran Premio del Jockey Club last Sunday, while Franklins Gardens from the Mark Tompkins yard completes the raiding party.

The going is forecast between holding and very soft.

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