06/04/2017 4:17PM

Brametot narrowly prevails as French Derby favorite

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Brametot, the winner of the Group 1 French 2000 Guineas last month, confirmed his status as France’s leading 3-year-old with an impressive winning rally in the final quarter-mile of Sunday’s Group 1 French Derby at Chantilly Racecourse.

Ridden by Cristian Demuro, Brametot closed from last to catch 7-1 Waldgeist and win by a short head. Recoletos, a Group 2 winner in May, finished third at 4-1. Formally known as the Prix du Jockey Club, the French Derby was worth approximately $1,690,200.

Brametot’s win led European bookmakers to quote the colt as an 8-1 shot for the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly on Oct. 1. The Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s leading flat race for older horses, is run over the same 1 1/2 miles on turf as the French Derby at Chantilly.

Sunday, Demuro was in no hurry on Brametot, the 8-5 favorite. He positioned the colt on the inside through the first five furlongs before guiding his mount to the outside entering the stretch.

Brametot closed rapidly in the final 100 yards and caught Waldgeist, with strides to spare. Waldgeist won the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud at 1 1/4 miles last October, and was second to Recoletos in the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud on May 8.

Brametot, an Irish-bred by Rajsaman, has won six of seven starts for trainer Jean Claude Rouget and owner Al Shaqab Racing and Gerard Augustin-Normand. The French Derby was his first start at 1 1/2 miles.

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Earlier this year, Brametot won two starts at a mile - the Group 3 Prix de Fontainebleau at Chantilly on April 16, and the French 2000 Guineas at Deauville on May 14.

Rouget said after Sunday’s race he considered keeping Brametot at a mile for the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes for 3-year-olds at Royal Ascot in England on June 20, but opted for the French Derby to avoid Churchill.

Churchill won the English 2000 Guineas and Irish 2000 Guineas in consecutive starts, for his third and fourth consecutive wins in Group 1 races. Churchill is an odds-on favorite at 8-11 with bookmakers in future-book betting to win the St. James Palace Stakes.

Brametot’s win comes in a year in which Rouget’s stable has been hit with an equine herpes virus that has sidelined some runners and led to the death of two horses in April.

“I nearly did not run this race, but Churchill scared me in the St. James’s Palace Stakes,” Rouget told French racing publicity. “So we tried, but between trying and succeeding there is a difference. And it is even more wonderful after the virus that affected my barns.”

Rouget said Brametot was not housed in the stable most directly affected by the virus. He said the colt will be given a break this summer, with goals for the autumn to be determined.