Prix de Diane, one of the most prestigious equestrian competitions in the world
Twelve runners go to post today at Prix de Diane at Chantilly racecourse north of Paris, which is the French equivalent of the Oaks. With a coveted main prize of 1 million euros, Prix de Diane is open to the best three-year-old fillies in Europe and is one of the most prestigious races of the year, along with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October, in Paris. The distance is 2100m, which is equivalent to 1m 2½f. The winning connections not only pocket €571,400, but their filly will also be worth a small fortune in the breeding sheds.
Golden Lilac did battle with Galikova in the race last year, but the last filly to win the Diane and then go on to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp was the great Zarkava in 2008. Zarkava was the sixth winner of the race for the Aga Khan, who has three runners on Sunday, but according to the bookmakers if there is one filly in this field that could make into an Arc horse it will be Beauty Parlour, who is just a shade of odds-on to win the French Oaks and 14/1 with Coral to win the Arc.
Beauty Parlour has always been highly thought of by connections, and is best-priced at 10/11 (bet £11 to make £10 profit) to win her second Classic of the year after taking the French 1000 Guineas. Beauty Parlour has won each of her four races to date, including a procession in the Prix de la Grotte in April before taking the Guineas in cosy style when heavily fancied on the PMU at 17/10 (close to 2/1 in a 13-runner race). Her breeding is unusual for a European classic contender in that her sire Deep Impact stands in Japan, but she looks to have a real engine and a devastating turn of foot.
Of course the worry for her fans is that the others from the classic generation have caught her up a bit in terms of ability by the Diane, which is unusually late this year, but she looks to have plenty of untapped potential. Her jockey Christophe Soumillon (pictured) was Zarkava’s jockey too and he has said that Beauty Parlour could be up in the same league as her. If that is the case, then 10/11 could actually look like a good price, despite a wider than ideal draw in nine. Her pacemaker will be Best Of All, who is smart in her own right.
The second favourite in the betting comes from Ireland in the shape of Kissed, who was one of the leading fancies for the Epsom Oaks but had to scratched at the 11th hour. Kissed is a half-sister to 2011 Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi, who is trained by the master Aidan O’Brien and will be ridden by the trainer’s son Joseph O’Brien. The Coolmore duo were unlucky with Imperial Monarch in the French Derby, but Kissed could give them compensation in the Diane, and she has been supported from 9/2 into 7/2 with bet365.
Joseph is still chasing his first Group One in France, but he should get a good spin from Kissed on the soft ground, who bolted up at Navan last time out, even though this represents a major step up in class from listed company.
The Aga Khan breeds his horses with these top middle distance races in mind, and his leading chance isDalkala, an 8/1 shot with Bet Victor. Dalkala is drawn in seven and bolted up in the Prix Cleopatre by four lengths at Saint-Cloud, but that is not always the best Diane trial and Galikova was the latest to fail to complete the double last year. Christophe Lemaire rides her and has won two of the last three Dianes.
Up is next for Aidan O’Brien with plenty of stamina as she finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup over a mile as a two-year-old, and this year confirmed her potential by finishing second to Beauty Parlour in the French 1000 Guineas at 34/1. She could be suited to French racing where they tend to go a slow early gallop and then quicken.
Elsewhere Gerald Mosse bids for his sixth Diane as a jockey on board Sagawara, who won a Group One last time out to beat the hot favourite La Peinture. Sagawara looks like a class act, but you get the impression that the stable’s number one is Dalkala.
The Prix de Diane is due off at 3.45pm local time (2.45pm UK time) on Sunday 17 June and will be live on At The Races.