James Ferguson’s Prix du Jockey Club runner-up El Bodegon returns to France in a bid to go one better in the Grand Prix de Paris at ParisLongchamp on Thursday evening.
The Kodiac colt appears to enjoy his cross-Channel jaunts, having also won a Group Three at Chantilly and provided his trainer with a first Group One success in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud last term.
He disappointed on his three-year-old debut in the Dante Stakes at York in May, but bounced back to beat all bar subsequent Eclipse hero Vadeni in last month’s French Derby.
El Bodegon tests the water over a mile and a half for the first time in the Bastille Day showpiece and Ferguson is anticipating a bold showing.
“We’re going there with form on his side and obviously going back to France where he has run so well in the past,” said the Newmarket handler.
“There’s some stiff competition. Even though there are only six runners I think it will be an extremely competitive race, but being a Group One that’s what you’d expect.
“We’re going there very hopeful of a big run.”
Ferguson does not expect the step up in trip to be an issue for his stable star, while he is hoping the hot weather in Paris does not dry out conditions too much.
He added: “I’m happy to run the horse. They’re currently saying the ground is good to soft and I hear they’re still watering, which is good.
“We’re expecting it to dry up before the race, with the days being so hot, but hopefully there’s a bit of give.
“When he ran over a mile and a quarter in the French Derby, he wasn’t stopping and his full-brother Best Solution won multiple Group Ones over a mile and a half, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
El Bodegon is one of two British-trained runners along with Roger Varian’s Eldar Eldarov, who stretched his unbeaten record to three with a last-gasp victory in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
Although that Group Two triumph came over a mile and three-quarters, Varian is hopeful his charge has what it takes to make his presence felt over a shorter trip.
“The Group One options were coming back to a mile and a half for the Grand Prix de Paris or going up to two miles for the Goodwood Cup and taking your three-year-old allowance off the older horses,” the trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“The Goodwood Cup was also quite an appealing option, having seen him stay so well in the Queen’s Vase, but he has only had three starts and we didn’t feel he had to go two miles on only his fourth start.
“We’d prefer to come back to a mile and a half and give the horse the opportunity to tell us how he can perform at the highest grade over a mile and a half. That will give us a bit more clarity for the remainder of the season.
“Win, lose or draw on Thursday, we’d have to say the St Leger is our priority – the real target for the autumn at the moment. Whether he runs again before the Leger, we’ll just have to see what happens. “
Irish hopes are carried by the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Piz Badile, who was last seen finishing best of the rest behind runaway winner Westover in the Irish Derby less than three weeks ago.
Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos Family, said: “Donnacha is very happy with his horse and it’s a very interesting race, bringing together the Irish, English and French forms.
“Piz Badile is a maturing horse and Donnacha and Gavin (Ryan, jockey) have been very happy with how he’s been since the Curragh.”
The three French horses looking to keep the prize at home for the first time since 2017 are L’Astronome, who is three from three this season for Francis-Henri Graffard, Fabrice Chappet’s Prix du Jockey Club fifth Onesto and the fast-improving Simca Mille from Stephane Wattel’s yard.