The favourites: SENGA and VIA RAVENNA

It is impossible to split Senga and Via Ravenna before this Abu Dhabi Poule d’Essai des Pouliches.

They both carry the colours of their respective breeders. Senga comes from the breeding operation of the Niarchos Family, and carries the colours of Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd, the Irish side of this international operation, and already winner of this race with the great Miesque in 1987, her daughter East of The Moon in 1994 and Divine Proportions in 2005. Like the latter, Senga is trained in Chantilly by Pascal Bary. Via Ravenna was herself born in Normandie, at Haras de Saint Pair, developed by the German owner/breeder Andreas Putsch. The white silks with a brown chevron and orange cap have not yet won this race.


Each one her prep

Both fillies each won their prep race for the Abu Dhabi Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. Senga won at Chantilly in the Prix de la Grotte Étalon Kendargent (Gr3). The short priced favorite of the race, even though she was making her seasonal debut, she only won by a length in front of La Sardane, the outsider of the race, as this Bruno de Montzey trained filly only had a modest victory at Pau to her name. Undoubtedly, better is still to come from Senga, who was the best of the French two year old fillies last year, due to her fourth place in the Total Prix Marcel Boussac. However Stéphane Pasquier didn’t want to give his filly a hard race before the big event, and Senga will improve from this. Her Achilles’ heel could be her mentality. She is quick to stress, and with the particular ambience at Deauville, she could be too wound up. Her advantage is her experience, having run three times at 2yo, which is not the case for Via Ravenna.

A filly still new

Via Ravenna, who is one of the two runners of the maestro André Fabre, only made her debut in March, in a race on the all-weather at Chantilly. She won easily, only by a short head, but effortless. This was enough for him to open doors to Group races for her, and five weeks later, she lined up in the Prix Imprudence (Gr3), over 1.400 meters on the straight at Maisons-Laffitte. Ridden by the young Vincent Cheminaud, she won classily, with an astonishing acceleration. She has the advantage of having performed over a straight track, on which they need to travelled relaxed, but does she have enough experience to take on this field? Answers on Saturday!

Blue Blood

On the pedigree side, both are impressive. Senga is from American bloodlines. Her sire, Blame, won three Group 1’s in the United States, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, however he has not yet sired a Group 1 winner. Beta Leo, the dam of Senga, has only had two runners on the track, and other than Senga, she has produced Bolting, a Listed winner last year. Beta Leo is a descendant of one of the foundation mares of the Niarchos breeding, Coup de Folie. From her there have come three Group 1 winners, Exit to Nowhere, Coup de Génie (the grand-dam of Senga) and Machiavellian, a influential sire.

The sire of Via Ravenna also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. This is Raven’s Pass, who is still awaiting, like Blame, a first Gr1 winner. Via Milano, the dam of the filly, was a very good race mare, winner of the Prix des Réservoirs (Group 3) at 2yo, and fourth in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches in 2004. She is a confirmed broodmare, with three black type progeny. The best of these was Via Medici, winner of the Prix de Lieurey (Gr3).

One O’Brien could hide another

The runners of the Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien are always dangerous when they come to France. The strongest on form of those lining up on Saturday is Roly Poly, even if her comeback at Newbury, where she was only seventh in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, poses a question. At 2yo, the filly showed a différent side to her, winning a Group 3, a Group 2 and finishing second in the Cheveley Park Stakes (Group 1), one of the best races for 2yo fillies in Great Britain. Even though her race record in less eloquent, her stable companion should not be underestimated; Rain Goddess, a recent fourth in the Fred Darling Stakes, the Group 3 won by Dabyah. Rain Goddess was initially trained by David Wachman, who retired at the end of last year. She then joined the stable of Aidan O’Brien, like a certain Winter, winner of the QIPCO 1.000 Guineas.

The fairytale: HEURISTIQUE

Heuristique carries the colours of a new owner, the Écurie de Montlahuc, developed by the founders of the Big Fernand restaurants, Steve Burggraf. The filly, in the care of a young trainer, Francis-Henri Graffard, gave him a first Listed success last year when winning the Critérium du Languedoc (L) at Toulouse. On her comeback, she finished second in the Prix La Camargo, another Listed. This isn’t enough to give her a favourite’s chance on Saturday, but puts her in with a chance of a place.

Heuristique, who was bred at Haras d’Etreham by Pontchartrain Stud, comes from a family that has already produced a winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Torrestrella.

The « Rouget » of the year: TOULIFAUT

Jean-Claude Rouget will be represented this year by Toulifaut. The Pau trainer has won this race a total of four times, and for the last three years successively: with Elusive Wave in 2009, then with Avenir Certain in 2014, Ervedya in 2015 and La Cressonnière in 2016. Toulifaut, a daughter of the crack Frankel, is not quite the same class as these mares. At the age of 2, she won three consécutive races from three starts, including the Prix d’Aumale (Gr3), in the colours of Andrew-James Smith. During the weekend of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, she passed through the sales ring at Arqana, and the French bloodstock agent Emmanuel de Seroux had the winning bid at 1,9 million euros on behalf of the great Japanese owner/breeder Katsumi Yoshida. In her new colours, she went to the Total Prix Marcel Boussac where she took eight place, not having the best run in the straight. On her seasonal comeback, still not quite come to hand,  Toulifaut was fourth in the Prix de la Grotte Étalon Kendargent. She is better than that performance, but it is difficult to envisage her winning.

The unbeaten: WAJNAH

Wajnah is the big question mark in the race. Trained by François Rohaut (who is also her breeder, in partnership with Haras de Saint Pair) she has only run twice, at Bordeaux, for two wins. She is taking a big step up in class this Saturday, as she has only faced horses of moderate ability up until now….   Unless the form of her last race works out, in which she beat a certain La Sardane, who took Senga to the line in the Prix de la Grotte Étalon Kendargent !

Wajnah carries the colours of the Qatari’s Al Shaqab Racing, who have become a major player on the international stage in a few short years.

Her sister, Baïne, was second in this race in 2010, also trained by François Rohaut. The Pau trainer has won this race twice, with Tie Black in 2006 and Torrestrella in 2004. The trainer has a great reptation for bringing his horses along progressively to the big day. So Wajnah is one to look out for, a daughter of the Australian stallion Redoute’s Choice, who stood for two seasons at Haras de Bonneval, the property of His Highness the Aga Khan.

Supplemented: FESTIVE

Alidar Utemuratov, the owner of Festive, put out 32.400 € last Wednesday to enter his filly at the last minute. This is called a supplementary entry.  Festive, who is trained by Éric Saint-Martin (son of the legendary Yves Saint-Martin and he himself a great jockey, winner of the  Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Urban Sea), won on her debut this winter at Cagnes-sur-Mer. She was then third in a Class 1 (the race just below Listed class) and then fourth at Maisons-Laffitte, at the same level. On paper, her performances give her very little chance, but the confidence of her connections suggests she could be a danger.

The German: DÉLECTATION    

Like Wajnah, Délectation will line up in th trace unbeaten. This filly, who is owned by Australian Bloodstock (an Australian syndicate who have won the biggest race of their nation, the Melbourne Cup, with a German horse, Protectionist) is trained in Germany by Andreas Wohler, although she only came to him this year. She has three wins for as many runs, and is coming off a success in the Karin Baronin Von Ullmann – Schwarzgold Rennen (Group 3). She will be ridden by Eduardo Pedroza, coming back from a fruitful winter in Qatar.