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by Geir Stabell / Globeform
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Meydan: Losing the prep is not necessarily a terrible thing. Many big race winners have come off defeats on their final start before the race that matters the most. If French Fifteen, owned by HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar and trained by Nicolas Clement in Chantilly, wins the Dubai Duty Free (G1) he will be another one. He made his seasonal debut in early March, was not even favourite as he went for a minor event at Chantilly, and got turned over.

That he did not start favourite was perhaps not so strange, as Group One winner Meandre was also in the mix, but French Fifteen was the one with solid form over actual the trip, 1600 metres. Meandre is a classy performer, and may also be in action at Meydan on World Cup night, but he is best over 2400 metres. Anyway, both these horses needed the outing to move one step closer to a good performance in Dubai. French Fifteen finished second, 2 lengths behind the winner, Silas Marner, while Meandre came home in fourth place. They were both conceding weight to Silas Marner, who had gained a Listed win at Deauville last December.

French Fifteen did not perform up to his previous best over the Polytrack surface at Chantilly. If he had, he probably would have won the contest. His form last year made him one of the best three-year-olds in Europe and he came to hand early in the season too, winning the Prix Djebel (LR) at Maisons-Laffitte in April and running a game second to Camelot in the 2,000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket in May. Both these races are run over straight tracks, the Djebel over 1400 metres (7 furlongs) and the Guineas over a mile. Whether he is at his best over straight courses is too soon to say, as French Fifteen had his chances ruined by a troubled run in the Prix du Jockey-Club (G1) at Chantilly, and later sustained an injury. He won over 1600 metres at Craon as a juvenile, racing around a left-hand turn. French Fifteen stayed on resolutely at the finish when second to Camelot, who went on to win the Epsom Derby (G1) on his next start, at Newmarket and he stays further than a mile. He was one of the favourites for the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) a month later, but the 2100 metres classic became somewhat of a barging match, with several horses getting in each others way. French Fifteen was among the sufferers and his jockey Christophe Soumillon put his hands down let the colt ease down in the closing stages. He was a beaten horse in any case, but could have finished closer than tenth, 4 lengths behind the winner Saonois.

A next to last effort in the Prix Jean Prat (G1), over 1600 metres at Chantilly in July, was all he did on the racecourse after the French Derby. He was held up at the back early on, then took stumble when asked to quicken 300 metres out, and came back with a leg injury. His three-year-old season thus ended on July 1, and his first start in 2013 came after a seven-month break. The three-year-olds were not a great bunch in Europe last year and French Fifteen is one of many who will have to step up a bit if they are to be competitive against older horses this term. On the plus side, French Fifteen is open to improvement, and he also has the physique of a horse that will progress with age. A big, strong sort, he will be effective over further than a mile this season.

Well bought for just 30,000 as a yearling (and resold privately after his juvenile campaign), French Fifteen is a son of Turtle Bowl, who enjoyed his finest hour when winning the Prix Jean Prat (G1) . French Fifteen's dam, Spring Morning, is a daughter of top class miler Ashkalani. Spring Morning won over 1600 metres and she has produced three other winners (from 900 metres to 2100 metres).

Last update: 2013-03-27 13:55:48 (First published: 2013-03-18 06:44:08 )

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