Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains (Group 1) | 1m [Grande Piste] | 3yo colts | SKY
It is rare enough to have the form from the business end of the 2,000 Guineas represented in the Paris equivalent but to have the Newmarket winner Poetic Flare bouncing out to do battle again just two weeks on sets a pretty high standard for anyone hoping to deny him a Classic double.
A repeat of his Racing Post Rating of 120 from the Guineas would have been enough to win 17 of the 21 editions of the Poulains this century and on only his sixth career start the son of Dawn Approach is open to scaling greater heights.
He faces the winner of both the Dewhurst and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere from last season in St Mark's Basilica and Sealiway, while there are other intriguing candidacies to consider. It is unlikely to be a case of click and collect for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning.
St Mark's Basilica spent much of the winter as ante-post favourite for the Guineas and it would appear Aidan O'Brien believes he might be the colt to break his Prix du Jockey Club duck, with this race as the ideal stepping stone.
Rain in the last week might have further aided his cause judged on his win in a soft-ground Dewhurst but the question remains whether he is a match for the race-fit Poetic Flare first time out.
Lagardere winner Sealiway ran respectably on good ground for his comeback in the Prix de Fontainebleau, finding only Policy Of Truth too strong and with the pair clear of their pursuers. He ran right away from his rivals in very deep ground on Arc day in a race undeniably devalued by the absence by the late defection of St Mark's Basilica and Maxime Guyon is likely to commit at the top of the straight rather than wait to be done for a turn of foot.
The giant Policy Of Truth was a worthy winner of the Fontainebleau and if the rain doesn't push conditions beyond soft he is a definite player.
Another who will not want it too deep is the unbeaten Breizh Eagle, who has been swimming in shallower waters but demands the utmost respect, while Normandy Bridge is much better than he showed when fourth on his return to action in a lightning quick Prix Djebel.
Bolger treads where few have dared
Poetic Flare may have been named by his owner/breeder/trainer Jim Bolger but there will be many who feel it a suitable description of the ambitious campaign set out for the 2,000 Guineas winner, who attempts a double almost designed by the European Pattern Committee to be ducked.
Bolger came mighty close to pulling off the 1,000 Guineas/Poule d'Essai des Pouliches coup with Finsceal Beo, who went down by a head to Darjina, before wrapping up the Irish 1,000 at the Curragh at the end of the month.
In 2007 the Newmarket and Longchamp fixtures were just a week apart and the extra seven days afforded by this season's calendar will have encouraged Bolger, as will an equine ally in Poetic Flare whom Bolger described this week as "hardy".
Victory would not technically be the first time the colts' Classic double has been achieved, although in the extraordinary year of 1940, the mighty Djebel won the Guineas at Newmarket on May 1 but did not get to run in the 'Prix d'Essai' – a substitute race combining the two Poules – until October, and at the rather unusual venue of Auteuil.
What they say
Joel Boisnard, trainer of Breizh Eagle
He's in great form. I wanted him to get experience of Longchamp for his comeback run and the only thing that is causing me concern is the ground. I know he goes well on good ground but I can't be certain if it's very soft. He's drawn wide but I expect the British and Irish runners will ensure there is plenty of pace on and he finishes off his races very well.
Gianluca Bietolini, trainer of Colosseo
He showed he handles heavy ground when second to Parchemin at Deauville. I'm sure he's improved again a little since his last run as he's a difficult horse in the mornings and takes a lot of work. I think he's up to the standard of the other French horses but it's hard to say where he sits compared to the foreign challengers.
Fabrice Chappet, trainer of Prince Lancelot and Easter
Prince Lancelot has more of the profile of a sprinter but he finished off well in the Prix Djebel over 1,400 metres [seven furlongs] and this is the race to find out about the extra 200 metres. Easter finished well down the outside in the Prix de Fontainebleau after being a bit further back than ideal, and he won't mind the softening conditions.
Andre Fabre, trainer of Parchemin
We had a little setback with him over the winter and he needed the race in the Fontainebleau. He didn't beat much at two but the programme means he has to run in Group races. We'll see if the softer ground will help and the idea is to see if he's good enough to run in the Prix du Jockey Club. I'd be delighted if he is placed.
Pia Brandt, co-trainer of Policy Of Truth
His draw is perfect and he has very good form on the track. He has every right to step forward from his comeback and genuine soft ground wouldn't be an excuse. He disappointed in the Group 1 at Saint-Cloud but that was on terrible heavy ground.
Archie Watson, trainer of Mehmento
Mehmento took a big step up in class in his stride and ran a huge race in the Greenham. I've been very happy with him since Newbury. The track at Longchamp should suit him and it's very exciting to have our first Classic runner.
Frederic Rossi, trainer of Sealiway
He ran fine on his comeback and the plan was to have him 100 per cent for D-day. I expect it to be testing ground and you saw what he did the day he won the Lagardere.
Stephanie Nigge, trainer of Normandy Bridge
Running in the Djebel on quick ground wasn't ideal but the Prix de Fontainebleau over 1,600 metres might have been a bit tough as he was pretty fresh for his comeback. He needs time to recover between his races so that option was also a bit close to the Poule d'Essai. Softer ground would have helped but he didn't run too badly in the Djebel. He's built on that run and the more rain they get the better as he will stay further in time.