Aidan O’Brien won the 1m 4f Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris for three-year-olds 12 months ago with Kew Gardens and, in Japan, has leading claims of victory again at Longchamp on Sunday evening (18:45).
This Galileo colt progressed throughout last season and won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at Naas with a perfectly timed run. That is one of Ireland’s key trials for future Classic hopefuls.
Although Japan ran below his juvenile form when only fourth to Telecaster in the Dante at York on reappearance, that does not tell the whole story. He was a big drifter on the day at the Knavesmire and clearly needed the run.
Japan wasn’t knocked about and came on a bundle for that return to action when a close-up third in the Epsom Derby.
He stayed on really well and snatched third in the final strides when beaten just half-a-length by stable companion Anthony Van Dyck.
The winner has since confirmed that form with runner-up Madhmoon in the Irish Derby when second to Sovereign.
No horse has done more to advertise this year’s Epsom equivalent than Japan himself, however.
He put in a career best when powering clear and winning the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot by 4 1/2 lengths from Bangkok.
This was a hugely impressive display and, if turning up in the same shape, Japan is going to take some stopping.
Those last two runs set a clear standard, but he’s a short-price 1/2 favourite with Unibet as a result.
Nonetheless, Japan appeals most for the Grand Prix de Paris renewal – although the value bets lie in picking out those to chase him home.
Fabre duo head Grand Prix de Paris dangers
French trainer Andre Fabre has won this race an unprecedented 13 times in his career, and is triple-handed in a bid to thwart the Irish raider.
Both Roman Candle and Slalom have solid each-way claims on the pick of their form. The former is a Godolphin owned son of Le Harve who got 1m 2f as a juvenile.
After placing third on return to action here over shorter in the Prix la Force, Roman Candle took the step up into Group 2 company in his stride and won by a neck at Saint-Cloud.
That punched his ticket to the Prix du Jockey Club. Roman Candle was denied a clear run two out in that race, but he kept on well enough to be fifth and beaten 7 1/4 lengths.
Given he proved his stamina as a two-year-old, the extra couple of furlongs is sure to suit. Roman Candle is 7/1 with BetVictor to take a step forward from his French Derby display.
Slalom, meanwhile, just wasn’t at the races at Chantilly but prior to that had been a highly progressive sort.
This Fabre second string is by Intello and a course winner at Group 3 level over an extended 10 furlongs.
When winning here on reappearance, Slalom drew clear under a hands and heels ride and finished five lengths ahead of the re-opposing Soft Light.
It was a taking display that only makes his French Derby flop all the more mystifying. If bouncing back, then Slalom is the best-each way value in the Grand Prix de Paris at 8/1 with Betfair.
Such a bet comes with risks attached, however, but he’s preferred to Fabre’s third runner In Favour who has to make a big step up.
Soft Light and Jalmoud best of rest
The aforementioned Soft Light has improved for stepping up to this trip when finishing a narrow second here and then in a Group 2 at Chantilly.
This Authorized colt represents in-form trainer Jean-Claude Rouget but hasn’t won in four attempts for his current handler. He simply lacked the speed to get involved with an on song Slalom three starts back.
Soft Light has since gone down by a head in a Listed contest to Jalmoud and then held a neck by Al Hilalee in the Prix Hocquart. This demands more and odds of 18/1 with Coral reflect that.
Jalmoud is the sole British raider in this year’s Grand Prix de Paris but very much the Godolphin second string.
Trained by Charlie Appleby, this son of New Approach chinned Soft Light in the final strides to score over course and distance.
When stepped up to 1m 6f in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase on very soft going at Royal Ascot, however, Jalmoud weakened completely out of contention.
He wasn’t the only one to disappoint there and fellow flop Western Australia is also engaged for O’Brien in this.
Jockey James Doyle allowed Jalmoud to come home in his own time at Ascot and he gave a better account last time out. Connections dropped him back in trip to 10 furlongs for a Group 2 at Saint-Cloud.
While he lacked the pace of the winner, Jalmoud was an unchallenged three-length second with as big a gap back to the third horse home. The way his last two runs have panned out suggest this trip is optimum
Jalmoud may thus be overpriced at 16/1 with Ladbrokes for the Grand Prix de Paris. He is preferred to Western Australia, who could be a pacemaker, as an outside shout.