Horses To Follow » Le Havre

Le Havre

There were doubts about Le Havre’s stamina for the 10-and-a-half-furlong trip of the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on Sunday, and stamina was at a premium with the rain that fell on the already-watered ground before the race and the fast pace that Set Sail and runaway Feels All Right set between them, but there were no such doubts after the race as Le Havre stayed on best of all to post an impressive victory.

It has to be said that Jean-Claude Rouget’s colt did enjoy the run of the race. He broke well from a good draw in stall four, he adopted a nice position in midfield on the rail, not too close to the fast early pace, he had a nice position just behind the leaders when they turned into the straight, he was able to engineer some racing room for himself just off the rail with minimal effort, he had Fuisse to chase when he did get clear, and he had the rail to help him inside the final 200 yards.

All of that said, there was a lot to like about this performance. A lot of the time, you make your own luck in these top races. When horses are unlucky, they are usually unlucky because they don’t have the pace to be where they want to be in a race, or to take gaps as they appear. Le Havre travelled well within himself throughout the race, and he had the strength to move off the rail and create a little space for himself as the pace was quickening a furlong and a half out. It looked at that point as if old foe Silver Frost would get first run on him and might not be for catching, but it was quickly apparent that the favourite’s stamina was ebbing.

Even though Le Havre quickly had Silver Frost cooked, it still looked like he had a mountain to climb if he was going to get to Fuisse, who had gone for home in the centre of the track, but he showed a really impressive turn of foot to catch and pass that rival with 100 yards to run. It is this turn of foot that marks Le Havre down as a potentially really high class individual. To put some measurement on his speed, he was only a length and a half in front of the Aga Khan’s horse, Beheshtam as they passed the 300-metre pole, and had gone four lengths clear of that rival by the time they reached the 100-metre mark. Admittedly, Beheshtam is more a galloper than a quickener, and he will be better served when he steps up to a mile and a half again, but it was still the hallmark of a high class horse to be able to put that distance between himself and a running-on potentially high class rival in that space of 200 metres.

This was probably a strong French Derby. The ‘right’ horses filled five of the first six places, and the time was really good. It was the only time to dip below Racing Post standard on the day, an impressive 0.11secs/furlong faster than standard on ground that the times on the day suggested was no faster than good. This was just the sixth race of Le Havre’s life, and he is undoubtedly progressive, with his trainer Rouget going through something of a purple patch at present. He was put in at 16/1 for the Arc after this, but it may be that 10 furlongs is his optimum. He is in the betting for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, but I would be surprised if he dropped back down to a mile now. I would also be surprised if he stepped up in trip to a mile and a half for the Grand Prix de Paris. He is not in the Eclipse at Sandown early next month, but he could be supplemented to that race. If he were, he could be under-rated and over-priced. Failing that, he could be one for the Juddmonte International at York in August. He could be that good.

© The Irish Field, 13th June 2009