08/10/2012 3:27PM

Deauville: Excelebration escapes Frankel but faces tough test in Jacques Le Marois


Excelebration has gotten away from Frankel but appears to be stepping into a hornet’s nest when he ships from Ireland to the French coast to start in the Group 1 Jacques Le Marois on Sunday at Deauville.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Excelebration has won six of his 12 career starts, and five of his six losses have come at the hands of fellow 4-year-old Frankel. Excelebration won his seasonal debut at The Curragh in April, but then ran into Frankel in the J.T. Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Anne Stakes, finishing second by five lengths in the former and second by 11 in the latter.

But while Frankel is staying in England and will try 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the Juddmonte International at York on Aug. 22, an excellent field of 11 has come together for the Marois, which is contested over a straight-course mile over ground expected to be good to soft.

Among Excelebration’s rivals is Moonlight Cloud, whose love for the Deauville course might trump her lack of credentials in races as far as a mile. Moonlight Cloud, bred and owned by George Strawbridge and trained by Freddie Head, is 3 for 3 at Deauville, including a blowout victory just last weekend in the Group  1 Prix Maurice de Gheest. The de Gheest is a sprint, however, and while Moonlight Cloud has won at distances up to seven furlongs, she finished seventh in the English 1000 Guineas in her lone previous try at one mile.

Trainer John Gosden will try for the Marois with two horses, Elusive Kate and Fallen for You. Elusive Kate is 3 for 3 at Deauville and just won the Group 1 Prix Rothschild over one mile there on July 29, but stable jockey William Buick gives up the ride in favor of Fallen for You, with Frankie Dettori taking over on Elusive Kate. Fallen for You, who has never raced outside England, won the Group 1 Coronation Cup in her most recent start.

Lending further depth to the Marois is Golden Lilac, second to Elusive Kate in the Rothschild and a top-class filly in her own right; Cityscape, who won the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free this past spring; and Immortal Verse, who ran poorly in the Rothschild, her first start of 2012 but who beat Goldikova while winning the 2011 Marois.

* Trainer Aidan O’Brien has the favorites, Cristoforo Colombo and Probably, in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, a six-furlong 2-year-old race on Sunday at The Curragh in Ireland.