Avenir Certain swoops late to complete French classic double

Avenir Certain completed a French Classic double when swooping wide and late in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly yesterday.

In what looked an open but high-class renewal of the French Oaks, Jean-Claude Rouget’s unbeaten filly was considered a leading player after her impressive victory in the Guineas at Longchamp five weeks earlier.

With the Newmarket 1000 Guineas winner Miss France failing to find room and the highly-touted Shamkala not picking up as anticipated, Gregory Benoist flew past the field in the closing stages ahead of surprise package grey Amour A Papa.

It is not infrequent for horses to win both races and Avenir Certain joins some illustrious names like Golden Lilac, Divine Proportions and the great Zarkava.

Miss France’s expected pacesetter Local Hero bustled past Bawina to lead them along, but the latter was still in a bold position to aim for glory at the top of the straight.

Maxime Guyon and the Andre Fabre-trained Miss France was angled into position but simply could not get out when he wanted and she was quickly swamped by the pack.

Shamkala, who had looked a star in the making when landing her first three starts, did not dazzle in the same way this time and passed the line alongside Xcellence in a photo for third and fourth.

Avenir Certain's winning distance was a length, with Xcellence third and Shamkala fourth.

Miss France eventually dead-heated with Ball Dancing for fifth spot.

Rouget said: ``“People don't realise how hard it is to get the horse right on the day and to prepare them for these big occasions.

“We thought she was a bit special but it was a high-class field, but Gregory rode her perfectly.

“I had only given him one bit of advice and that was not to panic, and he didn’t.

“She seemed quite far back when they came into the final straight, but I could see that she was going well and really relaxed and Gregory got her going at the right moment.

“She made me think a little bit of Zarkava. Avenir Certain won the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in soft ground and she won this on good ground, so she is quite straightforward.

“I don’t really want to make a decision about her autumn program yet.

“Naturally, every trainer thinks about the Arc but I’m not sure it is the right race for her. I think she might stay, but, as I said, we shall see how things go.

“However, right now she is going to have a well-deserved break.”

Benoist said: “I had a really good run through. Amour A Papa took me a long way and I didn’t panic as I knew she could come from behind.

“She proved that she is really an exceptional filly.

“I’m delighted that the owner entrusted me with this ride once more and that she proved she is a real class act.”

Anthony Stroud, racing manager for Miss France’s owners, Ballymore Thoroughbred Ltd, said: “She got stopped at a crucial moment and then ran on.”

Meanwhile exciting French filly Veda could aim to get her season back on track in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday.

Alain de Royer-Dupre’s filly kicked off her season with an impressive conditions race victory at Longchamp, earning her a tilt at the French 1000 Guineas.

She performed admirably in Classic company, finishing second to Avenir Certain, but failed to replicate that form when finishing well-beaten when odds-on for the Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly.

Connections believe the slow pace led to her demise on that occasion and are hopeful she will bounce back if given the green light to travel across the Channel for Friday’s Group One assignment.

Georges Rimaud, French stud manager for Veda’s owner the Aga Khan, said: “I won’t say she was disappointing at Chantilly, but she didn’t finish her race having been keen early.

“She is a filly who likes enough pace so she can settle at the back, but unfortunately that didn’t happen in her last race.

“She is by Dansili, so good ground should suit her well. Hopefully, if we decide to go to Ascot, they will go a good pace and then she will be able to travel well and accelerate late in the race.”

Certainly on course for the race is a filly Veda has met before, the Brian Meehan-trained J Wonder.

The Fred Darling Stakes winner was sixth in the French Guineas.

“She’s in tremendous shape,” said Meehan. “She got stuck in the ground in Longchamp and she has really come along in her coat.

“She did a really nice piece of work last week and I’m confident she can run well in the Coronation Stakes.”

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