Moonlight Cloud takes on eight other individual Group One winners in what may very well be the race of the season in tomorrow’s Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
Established as Europe’s top sprinter after finishing just a head behind Black Caviar and running away with the Prix Maurice de Gheest for the second year in-a-row last weekend, Freddie Head’s filly now meets the cream of the milers.
They include Excelebration, unable to manage the hopeless task of defeating Frankel but successful at the top level in the Prix du Moulin, Dubai Duty Free star Cityscape and Most Improved, who returned to form with a bang in the St James’s Palace Stakes.
That is just for starters, as there are four more Group One-winning fillies engaged.
William Buick stays loyal to Fallen For You over John Gosden’s other runner Elusive Kate, who will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
Andre Fabre’s highly-regarded Golden Lilac and Immortal Verse, who toppled Head’s mighty Goldikova in last year’s renewal of the Normandy track’s feature race, are also engaged.
Immortal Verse appeared in need of her comeback run when behind Elusive Kate and Golden Lilac in the Prix Rothschild.
“It looks like they’re all in there,” said Head. “She’s taken the race very well and has done nothing since – we’re keeping her fresh for Sunday.”
Head is unconcerned about Moonlight Cloud tackling a mile for just the second time – she was only seventh in last year’s 1000 Guineas on her other attempt.
“It’s going to be a tough race, it’s a top-class Group One and I don’t worry about the distance – I think she will get the distance,” he said.
“She’s changed a lot since last year, she doesn’t pull as much as she used to.”
Brian Meehan’s Most Improved was a winter gamble for the 2000 Guineas but did not make the race. After getting stuck in the crossfire of a brutal French Derby, the colt beat many of the Guineas also-rans at Royal Ascot.
“The spring was very disappointing for us all, but he went to Ascot and proved us right, which was great,” Meehan told At The Races.
“What happened in France was disappointing, but he is a big strong courageous horse and at least he came away from it having had a run.
“The Sussex Stakes was always a huge consideration, but this horse is French-bred so it made sense to go to France at some stage with him and the Jacques le Marois was the ideal race.”
Looking further ahead, the Manton trainer said: “We’ll see how things go on Sunday.
“There are good races at the Breeders’ Cup for him now. There is the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile, so the Breeders’ Cup is probably priority.
“I believe Frankel is going to step up to a mile and a quarter, which we probably won’t do.
“Who we take on is just part of the deal really. To take on Frankel just for the sake of it would be reckless and unprofessional.”
Cityscape was eighth in last year’s race and needs to step up from a couple of more recent efforts.
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