05/25/2012 3:25PM

Longchamp: Cirrus des Aigles tops Prix d'Ispahan


Frankel and Black Caviar, those towering unbeatens, dominate international racing headlines, but how can there be a more admirable racehorse than Cirrus des Aigles? On Sunday at Longchamp, the best older middle-distance horse in Europe will try to win his third Group 1 in a row, and he’ll be favored to beat seven rivals in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan.

The 6-year-old French gelding made more starts (11) in 2011 alone than Frankel has in his entire career (10) and continues to perform at an extremely high level under utterly divergent conditions. On March 31, racing in the Dubai desert on a fast, firm turf course at Meydan, he won the Group 1 Sheema Classic; less than one month later, Cirrus des Aigles was back in France capturing the Group 1 Prix Ganay over boggy Longchamp turf. That gave Cirrus des Aigles 15 wins from 42 career starts, first- or second-place finishes in 31 of those races, and a placing of third or better on 37 occasions.

Having decided at nearly the last moment against a long-distance ship for last weekend’s Singapore Cup, trainer Corine Barande-Barbe chose the Ispahan over next weekend’s Coronation Cup in England, citing a desire to avoid travel in hot weather and stick closer to home. The Ispahan, to be contested over a little more than 1 1/8 miles on a course rated good-to-soft, is no easy spot and includes the winner of last year’s French Derby, Reliable Man, and French Oaks, Golden Lilac. Cirrus des Aigles comfortably handled Reliable Man in the Prix Ganay, while Golden Lilac makes the first start of her 4-year-old campaign. Also in the race is Planteur, who most recently finished third in the Dubai World Cup.

Sunday’s other Group 1 at Longchamp, the Prix Saint-Alary for 3-year-old fillies, drew an unproven cast of nine: None of the fillies, all based in France, has won a group race of any kind.

The Curragh: So You Think top Gold Cup

The Curragh in Ireland also plays host to a pair of Sunday Group 1’s, with So You Think swinging back into action in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and a field of eight 3-year-old fillies entered in the Irish 1000 Guineas.

So You Think was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and fourth last out in the Dubai World Cup, and for the most part failed to live up to the halo of hype hovering above him at this point last year. Still, back on turf for the first time since October, he should be heavily favored to handle four foes in the 10 1/2-furlong Gold Cup.

The O’Brien-trained Homecoming Queen finished 14th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and was ninth in her 2012 debut. But she won the 18-starter English 1000 Guineas on May 6 by nine lengths and will be favored to win her third straight in the Irish 1000, which also includes two other O’Brien runners, After and Ishvana.