French trainer Christopher Head is excited to see how the “filly of my life” Blue Rose Cen shapes up against Nashwa in a mouthwatering Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
Unbeaten in three starts this season, Blue Rose Cen landed the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) and then produced a powerful performance over an extended 10 furlongs, winning a deep Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly by four lengths.
Last year she won four of her six starts, culminating in another top-class success in the Prix Marcel Boussac, to be crowned the French champion two-year-old.
Her first crack at the older generation comes on her international debut. And Head is relishing the chance to visit a track where Solow landed the Sussex Stakes for his father, Freddy, in 2015.
“Everything is all right – all lights are green,” said Head.
“She has had a brilliant preparation and we are very happy with her, and we can’t wait to get to Goodwood races.
“She is a wonderful filly, the filly of my life for now, and I’m really happy to have the luck to train her.
“It has been a tremendous season with her and we can’t wait to see what she is capable of doing at the Goodwood track.”
Head is a fifth generation of his family to excel in the thoroughbred business. He is the son of Freddy, the multiple champion-jockey-turned-trainer, and grandson of Alec, something akin to French racing royalty.
While this will be Head’s first runner at the undulating circuit, he is no stranger to British racing and is keen to see how far the daughter of Churchill can climb.
“It has been a very nice run and I think it is a very tactical racetrack and a very interesting one,” he added.
“I can’t wait to get into it, because there is such a good atmosphere at the races in the UK and it is really a unique feeling when you run a horse there.”
The Chantilly-based handler has no qualms that Blue Rose Cen will handle the rain-soaked ground.
“The ground should not be any issue for her,” he said. “She has already encountered various tracks and there is no problem at any of them.”
Though he initially felt she was a 10-furlong filly on pedigree, he is exploring the possibility of seeing her race over further.
“We will need to see her run, but there is a project about seeing what she is capable of doing in a staying capacity, such as the Vermeille, just to see if she is capable of going further,” he added.
“We don’t have the limit of the filly now – she looks like she can do everything! For now, she has the benefit of choice.”
Five fillies stand in her way, including Roger Varian’s Al Husn, who won the Group Three Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes, at Newcastle, and Joseph O’Brien’s Above The Curve, who won the top-level Prix Saint-Alary last season.
Nashwa, though, would appear to be Blue Rose Cen’s biggest danger. The John and Thady Gosden-trained four-year-old won this race last year, having previously given Hollie Doyle her first Classic success in the Prix de Diane.
The daughter of Frankel, who is rated 2lb superior on official ratings, will be conceding 8lb to the French raider due to the weight-for-age structure.
She took her time to find her form this season, and was narrowly beaten by Al Husn at Newcastle, but was subsequently an eyecatching winner of the Group One Falmouth at Newmarket, where she powered to a five-length success back over a mile.
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Imad Al Sagar, who owns Nashwa, feels she is up to the task now she has found her form.
He said: “She’s in good form, actually. She came out of the Falmouth really well. I think it was so encouraging the way she did it at Newmarket.
“Everybody’s faith has been repaid, as it were. She looked good and had done well over the winter and, if anything, might have done a bit too well.
““She is a big, scopey filly and sometimes they just take a little while to come to themselves. It was never that she worked badly, she was always going nicely, but I think after Newcastle, it looked like she suddenly began to take hold of the bridle.
“She settled really well at Newmarket and showed a really good turn of foot, galloped out well and wasn’t stopping.”
Nashwa justified favouritism, beating Aristia by a length and three-quarters in the race 12 months ago, but Grimthorpe knows she faces a tough task against Blue Rose Cen.
He added: “We know she acts at Goodwood, anyway. It is a very interesting race and the French filly looks exceptional. It is going to be a good race.
“We are always hopeful, but the good thing is she is going into the race how we’d want her to.”