Prix de Diane Longines (Group 1) | 1m2½f, 3yo fillies | SKY
If you want to know how much of a disadvantage a wide draw is over 1m2½f at Chantilly, just ask Christophe Berglar.
The owner-breeder of King George winner Novellist took one look at stall 17 for his Group 2 winner Amazing Grace and decided she would be staying in Cologne this weekend.
On quick ground the rail is golden around Chantilly's single right-hand sweep and, while rain has somewhat levelled the playing field, the likes of Prix Saint-Alary winner Incarville will need to be ridden for luck from stall 18.
Irish 1,000 Guineas runner-up Joan Of Arc has been handed a plum draw in stall five and has the assistance of Coolmore's new go-to man in France, Ioritz Mendizabal.
She was arguably a little unlucky to be nabbed on the line by stablemate Empress Josephine on desperate ground at the Curragh last month and showed both in the Classic and her trial at Leopardstown that she is a very straightforward ride.
Empress Josephine did not really bolster that form when beaten ten and a half lengths in the Coronation Stakes at Ascot on Friday.
And while it would be rash to ever suggest a daughter of Galileo might have stamina doubts, her brother Gleneagles was a miler. Joan Of Arc's sister Happily was only beaten half a length in a blanket finish to this race behind Laurens in 2018 before being dropped back in trip by Aidan O'Brien.
You could argue that the horse whose form was boosted in the Coronation was Noble Heidi's. She beat Novemba in Germany's most important race for two-year-old fillies last October, and was only run down late by Amazing Grace after being asked to burn plenty of energy on the short run to the first turn in the Diana Trial at Hoppegarten.
Andre Fabre saddles three fillies and Burgarita heads the betting on the basis of her win in the Prix de la Seine.
Plan A for her was the Ribblesdale at Ascot over 1m4f before travel issues forced a rethink, and it could be that stablemate Philomene has more basic speed now she returns to this intermediate distance, while she also has a much kinder draw in stall eight.
Similar considerations also dissuaded Jean-Claude Rouget from sending Coeursamba to Britain. No trainer has done such a brilliant job of deciding which of his Poule d'Essai heroines to step up and which to stay at a mile with. If she stays she may be irresistible, but that remains a big if.
Of the others to come on from the Pouliches, fourth-placed Sweet Lady looked ready for a step up in trip and is rated only 2lb behind Coeursamba, while Rougir finished fast from an impossible position but her pedigree is that of a miler.
Khalidiya represents connections that have won the Diane with fillies that vault through the ranks quickly and she has avoided the heated battles endured by some of her rivals.
The draw has been unkind to the supplemented Sibila Spain, but she won't mind cut in the ground and, if they go hard up front, she has a turn of foot that could pick up at least some of the pieces late on.
Storm warning makes ground hard to predict
Chantilly has been far luckier than Ascot so far this week and, despite catching 15mm of rain on Thursday, the ground on Saturday morning was only soft (3.5 on the penetrometer). Localised storms are forecast across France for the weekend, though, and it will be the luck of the draw how much rain, if any, hits the track.
What they say
Alain de Royer-Dupre, trainer of Khalidiya
She was just ready to start and no more first time out, and then she made good progress to win on her second run. She had a racecourse gallop at Chantilly and I think that's brought her forward again. Her build-up has gone exactly as you would want. She's never done any fast work on really deep ground, but judging by her confirmation I would be worried if it got heavy. She is a serious filly and I love the fact she has taken all her work so well.
Jean-Claude Rouget, trainer of Coeursamba and Light Stars
After the Poul d'Essai I talked about leaving Coeursamba at a mile, but the travel difficulties and cost of supplementing her for Ascot were both considerable, whereas there is good money in the Diane even for a place. She worked very well at the start of the week. Light Stars disappointed at Saint-Cloud without any obvious explanation, but she then won well in the Prix Caravelle.
David Smaga, trainer of Incarville
We're now in stall 17 and directly inside us are Antoine Griezmann's horse Natsukashi, Christopher Head's Sibila Spain and then Burgarita, so we'e all in the same boat. She's in very good form and what she did at Longchamp was exceptional, running down the leaders when she was still last passing the Pavilion. She just put her head down and flew. If we get more storms then that could change the calculations with regard to the draw and bring the outside runners into it.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Joan Of Arc
She's been very good since the Curragh and it was always the plan to go to the French Oaks after that. She's progressing nicely and we think the step up in trip will suit her. Ioritz [Mendizabal] has been very good on St Mark's Basilica for us this season.
Francis Graffard, trainer of Es La Vida and Sweet Lady
Sweet Lady was always racing half a stride quicker than she was totally comfortable in the Poule d'Essai so I think the step up in trip will help her. She is in great form and I think the softer ground is also an advantage. Es La Vida is in top shape. I have a little more of a doubt about her stamina, but the owner was was very keen that we take our chance if we got soft ground and a good draw, which we have.
Andre Fabre, trainer of Burgarita, Philomene and Harajuku
I was a bit frustrated with Philomene in the Poule d'Essai because I was quite confident. But she didn't run that badly considering she was so inexperienced and it's certain that she needs further so the Prix de Diane distance will suit her better. I think this race could be a bit sharp for Burgarita, but she is in good shape and has ability. I would have been confident about her in the Ribblesdale, but unfortunately we couldn't travel. The ground is a concern for Harajuku because she is a light filly with a beautiful action so she wouldn't want it too soft. But her form with Incarville is good enough to put her right there.
Philippe Decouz, trainer of Natsukashi
It's five weeks since her last run but she worked on the racecourse at Chantilly ten days ago to get her back in the zone. The filly has a lot of class and seems to me to have improved from her last race. This remains a big challenge.
Frank Walter, owner of Cirona
Her work has been very good and she's very calm, as is everyone around her. She'll give her running whatever the going.
Henk Grewe, trainer of Noble Heidi
Her first run this year didn't go well but she wasn't 100 per cent fit and needed some time after her winter break. We're very comfortable with her condition now. It's a very hard race but it's a big experience for us and we will enjoy it. She beat Novemba easily last year at what was their best trip and not ours, and I think 2,100 metres is Noble Heidi's optimum.
Christopher Head, trainer of Sibila Spain
I feel she is getting stronger mentally with every race and she is learning very fast. We are really beginning to reap the rewards of the work we've done with her. I think she's capable of winning and I'm not worried about the draw. I'm really confident and think she could be special. You can ride her anywhere in a race and she just needs a good trip. She's done all her running on soft ground and has still showed that turn of foot.