THE international racing circuit moves to France this weekend and there will be massive interest here in Cork in the performance of Romanised in the prestigious Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville.
His trainer Ken Condon hails from Ballyhea and is having a brilliant season but retaining this Group 1 contest would be the icing on the cake. Romanised delighted connections during the week and was partnered in the exercise by his regular race-rider Billy Lee, who will take the mount despite having to quarantine for 14 days on his return due to coronavirus restrictions in Ireland.
But this really is the race of the season with a star studded line-up declared including Circus Maximus and Kameko who were among nine top-class runners left after the forfeit stage.
The pair will renew their rivalry after finishing second and fourth behind Mohaather in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. While £275,000 was the total purse for the Sussex, the runners in the Marois will be competing for their share of €600,000.
Among them will be Alpine Star, who like Circus Maximus is owned by the Niarchos family who are huge supporters of Irish racing. She was only narrowly beaten by Donncha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly last month. Palace Pier, a smooth winner of the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, is also set to take his chance for the all-conquering John Gosden stable.
But Ken Condon reports Romanised to have thrived since taking the Group Two Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh last month, on his first run since September.
“All is well with the horse which is the main thing. He’s been very good since his win at the Curragh. Everything seems fine and I’m looking forward to what promises to be an intriguing contest. It’s great to be taking part. On paper it looks the race of the summer with all the Royal Ascot winners in the field, but we are very happy with our horse."
Romanised, one of Europe's top milers made an impressive return to action when defying a 314-day absence to land the Group 2 Paddy Power Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh last month, and Condon feels the former Irish 2,000 Guineas winner has progressed from his return.
"It was a very nice comeback run and I'm sure he's come on plenty for it. Training is one thing but there's nothing like a match to really tighten things up and bring you forward. We've been happy with his work since and he's taken the race really well. Hopefully his final checks this week go to plan. It's great to be taking part, it looks like a cracking race."
Interestingly, rider Billy Lee is set to sacrifice two weeks of racing on home soil in order to maintain his partnership with Romanised. Quarantine regulations in Ireland require anyone travelling into the country to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival, meaning Lee will face a spell on the sidelines when returning from France.
Condon is delighted to have Lee's services for Romanised's bid for back-to-back victories in the Deauville prize, and added: "Billy is keen to ride and willing to take his two weeks of quarantine when he comes home. He had made up his mind a few weeks ago and is anxious to keep the partnership intact, so that's great news from our point of view."
Romanised's stablemate Laws Of Indices emerged with great credit after a fast-finishing fourth in Sunday's Keeneland Phoenix Stakes and the trainer has already mapped out a Group 1 campaign for the exciting juvenile.
"We were very pleased with the run and he's confirmed the early impression of the Railway Stakes. I think he's going to be better for the step up in trip and all things being well he'll run in the National Stakes next. He'll handle slower ground too and could go to the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere."
So Romanised will fly the flag for Leeside fans this weekend and has an outstanding each/way chance at 7/1. But as we know this is a serious Group 1 race and there are dangers everywhere.
Britain’s master trainer John Gosden provides the 6/4 favourite with Palace Pier who was a convincing winner of the St James Palace Stakes at Royal. Gosden has done it all before and is such a fascinating character who is always worth listening too on the eve of any big race. His handling of superstar mare Enable is the stuff of legend while his association with Frankie Dettori in recent seasons has been the talk of racing world globally. Gosden just pilfers these Group 1 contests so regularly now and his balanced assessment of his contender is fascinating.
Gosden said: “Palace Pier is a young horse that is only three and he has only run four times in his life, so to that extent he is a progressive horse. Every time you go into these Group Ones it is hard and this time he is taking on older horses, not just three-year-olds.
“He ran great at Ascot and I just think the straight mile at Deauville will really suit him. We are happy keeping him at a mile, but he will get a mile and a quarter in time. You could see that by the way he finished his race at Ascot.”