05/09/2014 3:23PM

Karakontie favored in French 2000 Guineas


Karakontie was the best 2-year-old based in France last year, and despite being defeated in his 3-year-old debut, he’s widely favored to win the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) on Sunday at Longchamp, where the going is described as good to soft.

Karakontie, a Bernstein colt trained by Jonathan Pease for the Niarchos family, won three of four starts in 2013, capping his campaign with a three-quarter-length victory in the Group 1 Jean-Luc Lagardere. Karakontie made his 3-year-old debut in the Prix de Fountainbleau on April 12 at Longchamp, and though he was beaten a neck, his defeat by the Group 1 winner Ectot (forced out of Sunday’s race with an injury) could have him primed for a peak performance in Sunday’s one-mile French classic.

Godolphin’s Andre Fabre-trained colt Decathlete could be ready for a step up in class Sunday. Decathlete was beaten less than a length by Karakontie in his second career start last fall and was an easy winner of his Guineas prep in a minor race April 21 at Longchamp.

Also in the 14-horse field is Giovanni Boldini, who finished fourth of 12 racing on Meydan’s synthetic surface in the UAE Derby on March 30, and was a good second to Outstrip in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Sixteen 3-year-old fillies were entered in what appears to be a highly contentious edition of the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas), also on Sunday at Longchamp. Lesstalk in Paris is the ante-post favorite for the race, but has no substantial edge on several others in the field, such as Indonesienne, who beat her last fall in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. Bawina has run out an easy winner of her two starts this year, but is facing much higher class opposition Sunday. In a closely matched race with a bulky field, racing luck could mean everything, and no rider has done better at working out trips in this race than Veda’s jockey, Christophe Soumillon, who has won the Pouliches three of the last seven years.

O'Brien Epsom Derby contingent grows

Aidan O’Brien already has the ante-post favorite for the Epsom Derby in Australia, and he added depth to his Derby lineup with a pair of 3-year-old stakes wins this week at Chester in England.

On Thursday, Orchestra captured the Group 3 Chester Vase, the same race the O’Brien-trained Ruler of the World won on his way to an upset of the 2013 Derby. Orchestra and jockey Ryan Moore slipped through on the rail on the race’s final turn and appeared to be on his way to an easy victory, but Orchestra appeared to lose focus while drifting across the track during the stretch run, hanging on to win by a nose over the John Gosden-trained Romsdal.

On Friday, Kingfisher found his best stride late after being briefly left behind by a quickening pace about three furlongs out and won the listed Dee Stakes by a length. Kingfisher won for just the second time in six starts and would appear to have significantly less upside than Orchestra, who now has won two of his three races.