It’s not surprising that after the success of Americain in last year’s Melbourne Cup that French interest in the Melbourne spring racing carnival is stronger than ever.
While we are used to the continual conveys from the UK and Japan, France could well be the next major threat to our Group 1 staying tests.
Alain de Royer-Dupre has long said that Americain will be back to defend his title, but he’s likely to do so in the company of a home town rival.
Trainer Mikel Delzangles is set to follow the same path with his long distance specialist Dunaden.
Before they come travelling buddies though they’ll first square off on home turf when they run in the Prix Kergorlay next Sunday at Deauville.
It was a race Americain won last year and kick started his run to a Geelong Cup win and Melbourne Cup triumph.
Delzangles will be out to stop that happening again as he confirmed his plans to target out spring riches.
“We are very serious about coming to Melbourne,” he said.
A former assistant trainer to Dupre, Delzangles says he’s excited at the challenge that lies ahead but knows toppling his old boss will be no easy feat.
“We will know more after next weekend when we take on Americain but provided he runs well, the horse will go into quarantine on September 8 in preparation for Melbourne,” he said.
“It’s a worry having to take on Americain next week and perhaps again in Melbourne as he is such a good stayer but the handicap will make it harder for him this year.”
The campaign on Dunaden will mirror that of Americain last year, first up in the Geelong Cup and then on to the first Tuesday in November.
Royer-Dupre isn’t going to be giving up his titles easily though, he says his horse may even be better than he was 12 months ago.
“I believe it is possible,” he said.
“He’s much fresher this year, his return win at Deauville was pleasing and I’m very happy with his progress since that run.
“I suppose it would be intelligent to follow the same path as last year and run in the Geelong Cup but we might look at the Cox Plate.”
While Americian is the proven horse, Dunaden is far more of an unknown prospect with his next run to be crucial in getting a better read of his ability.
Back in May he placed second in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier, previous to that he won the Prix de Barbeville at the end of April.
These are the same races Americian ran in two years ago so he’s definitely on the right path to stardom, just how far he gets there remains to be seen.
Delzangles was set for a team of two to head to Melbourne but Zach Hall failed to fire in the Arlington Million on Saturday and as a result he’s unlikely to be a Cox Plate starter.
The race was won by Cape Blanco, he’s also in the Cox Plate nominations but Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien is reportedly only lukewarm about sending him south for the spring.
The other Cox Plate to run at Arlington, River Jetez, was third in the Beverly D Stakes however his South African trainer Mike de Kock’s is unlikely to follow through on the entry due to quarantine issues.