Horses To Follow » French Navy

French Navy

French Navy had not been seen since finishing fifth to Roderic O’Connor in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud at the end of October when trained by Andre Fabre, but made a very pleasing return to action on his first start since being switched to Mahmood Al Zarooni’s yard when winning a Class 2 10-furlong conditions contest at Newmarket on Saturday despite the slow pace probably not being in his favour.

He suffered a fracture over the winter, hence the long time off the track. But for that he might well have been Godolphin’s Derby horse, he was obviously very well though of by the Fabre team, he was sent off 2/1 favourite for the Criterium International. He was keen through the early part of this race under Kieren Fallon, having a rare ride for the Godolphin operation, as one of the other Godolphin horses in the race, Age Of Reason, set just a steady pace. The Mike De Kock horse Mahbooba took a fairly keen hold in first-time blinkers, he went across to the middle of the track in the straight and took about a three-length lead. Fallon was anxious not to get caught out if the race turned overly tactical, and so took French Navy over to join Mahbooba in the middle, perhaps also keen to get his horse to settle better as he had still not dropped the bridle after half a mile. Age Of Reason and Mahbooba both started to weaken as they passed the quarter-mile point and French Navy had to be niggled along a bit, but he came there to take it up. He was pressed by the Group 1-winning Joshua Tree up his inside but Fallon managed to get all the way back across to the near rail before that one and from that point the race was in safe keeping for French Navy. He had taken a while to find his feet but when he got to the front and across to the rail he ran on strongly to the line, pulling a little way clear late on in the style of a horse who would get further.

French Navy was a high class two-year-old last season, he had won his first three starts quite cosily before the soft ground was all against him in the Criterium International, when he suffered his only defeat. This was his first run since, and he should come on a good deal for it, mentally as much as physically. He wasn’t given a hard time, Fallon was just hands and heels here, and he was readily on top at the end. While the weight-for-age scale and Joshua Tree’s Group 1 penalty meant he was in receipt of 16lb from the runner up, that horse is high class on his day, he won the Royal Lodge as a two-year-old and ran very good races in both the Great Voltigeur and the St Leger last year before going on to win the Canadian International.

French Navy holds some lofty entries, he is in both the English and Irish Champion Stakes, but perhaps most interesting is his entry in the St Leger. Obviously there would be a doubt about the Leger trip for him, he is a half-brother to Sea Lord, Mark Johnstons’s progressive miler from last season, by Shamardal out of a Woodman mare, but his dam was a Listed winner in France over 10 furlongs and she is related to Assatis, who won two Hardwicke Stakes and a Group 1 in Italy over a mile and a half for Guy Harwood. The way French Navy finished here, given how exuberant he had been through the race, offers hope that he will stay, this run should have taken the freshness out of him. Godolphin (who have a good record in the final Classic) now have Blue Bunting as a St Leger possible, but they are not averse to having a couple of runners in the race, and they could well let this one take his chance. Best odds of 33/1 about him at this stage would be very big if he was given the go ahead for the race. If he isn’t, he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

12th August 2011