06/01/2012 3:43PM

France: Kesampour favored in wide-open French Derby at Chantilly

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A day after the Epsom Derby in England was to run with Camelot as an overwhelming favorite in a short field, the Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, presents an entirely different look, with 20 horses, none of them anything like an apparent standout, set to face the starter on Sunday at Chantilly.

The widespread favorite for the 1 5/16-mile race is Kesampour, a King’s Best colt bred and owned by the Aga Khan and trained by Mikel Delzangles. Kesampour has won all four of his starts, two last year and two at age 3, but was sternly tested last out in the Group 3 Prix Greffulhe, his first try in a group stakes, where he beat fellow French Derby runner Albion by a head while racing 1 1/4 miles on very soft going. The Aga Khan has a second runner in the race, Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Lunayir, though that seemingly progressive colt drew a worse post, 15, than did Kesampour, who breaks from 5.

Six-time winner French Fifteen would rate a decent chance provided he can stay the French Derby distance, which is far from certain. French Fifteen took a narrow defeat from Camelot last out in the English 2000 Guineas but has never raced beyond one mile.

Saint Baudolino, a Godolphin-owned colt trained by Andre Fabre, showed courage winning the Prix de Guiche over the Chantilly course in his most recent start,

Trainer Aidan O’Brien sends one horse, Imperial Monarch, a winner of both his starts, but somewhat difficult to read. Imperial Monarch beat 18 foes in a maiden win, but had only four rivals last out at the Curragh winning the Group 3 Classic Trial.

Hard Dream emerged from second-tier venues to capture the Group 2 Prix Noailles over 11 furlongs last out at Longchamp and has won three straight races.

Most Improved, a Brian Meehan-trained colt, has had his 3-year-old debut pushed back a couple times, but was just a half-length behind well regarded Parish Hall in the Group 1 Dewhurst last fall when last seeing racing action.

The French Derby card includes five other group races and gets underway at 7:20 a.m. Eastern.