05/30/2014 2:36PM

Prince Gibraltar aims to confirm division dominance in French Derby


Prince Gibraltar in his final start at age 2 and first race at 3 looked like the best French horse of his generation, an impression he can confirm Sunday at Chantilly in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club.

Prince Gibraltar finished third in his debut last September but has since won three straight races by a combined 9 1/2 lengths, and after capturing the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud by five lengths last November, he impressively mowed down four foes on May 3 in the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe in his 3-year-old debut and trial for the Prix du Jockey Club.

Prince Gibraltar is one of 16 entrants in the Prix du Jockey Club, also known as the French Derby, and contested at 10 1/2 furlongs over a course forecast to be good to soft on race day. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget – who won the 2009 French Derby with Le Havre – Prince Gibraltar has a new jockey, Gerard Mosse, for Sunday’s race, as Christophe Soumillon is committed by contract to ride Shamkiyr for the Aga Khan.

The rider switch should make little difference if Prince Gibraltar, a son of Rock of Gibraltar, continues his ascent. Held up at the back of the field in both his stakes wins, Prince Gibraltar has shown both a sustained run and a powerful burst of speed, and he already has won twice at about 1 1/4 miles.

Prince Gibraltar is heavily favored in ante-post wagering on the race, with French 2000 Guineas winner Karakontie the clear second choice in prerace betting. Karakontie has four wins – including two Group 1 victories – and two seconds from his six career starts, but has yet to race beyond one mile, and neither he nor the Guineas runner-up, Prestige Vendome, is certain to stay the French Derby’s longer distance.

Among the 3-year-olds proven over 1 1/4 miles is The Grey Gatsby, an English invader who scored a mild upset on May 15 in the about 1 1/4-mile Dante Stakes.

Three-time French Derby-winning trainer Andre Fabre, who sent Intello out to stylishly win last year’s race, has two entries, Galiway and Earnshaw. The latter was left in Prince Gibraltar’s wake in the Greffulhe, but Galiway, a son of Galileo, could improve Sunday stretching out from the about one-mile French 2000 Guineas.