HORSE POWER: French Invasion on it’s way to the Royal Ascot as strong challenge from across The Channel attempts to end five-year drought

Royal Ascot‘s history is decorated with the feats of brilliant French horses, trainers and jockeys but, in recent years, their presence has been lacking.

That, though, is going to change dramatically next week when the biggest flat meeting of the year will be illuminated with the biggest challenge from across The Channel this decade and excitement is building that they will annexe the biggest prizes.

Ahead of the Royal meeting, Horse Power spent a morning on the gallops in Chantilly picking up the latest intelligence and discovered that hopes are soaring that a five-year run without a Gallic success in Ascot will be brought to a spectacular end. These are five horses to follow closely.

France's last Royal Ascot winner was Watch Me in the Coronation Stakes back in 2019

France’s last Royal Ascot winner was Watch Me in the Coronation Stakes back in 2019 


Trainer: Maurizio Guarnieri Target: Queen Anne Stakes, Tuesday Odds: 8/1

Big Rock’s finest hour came over Ascot’s straight mile when he ran away with the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last October. 

He was switched from previous trainer Cristopher Head to his current trainer, the Inter Milan fanatic Guanieri, in April and ran a lacklustre race at Newbury last month in the Lockinge Stakes. He looked a million dollars at his stables on Wednesday, though, and big things are expected.

Guanieri says: ‘The problem at Newbury was the stalls. The jockey tried to get away first but the horse put his nose on the stall then his knees on the ground – a real problem! 

‘The jockey needed to give plenty of time to recover but he pushed for 10 metres immediately and that meant the horse had run his race with 200 metres to go.

‘Aurelien Lemaitre is a good jockey and I respect him but there was not a good feeling between me and him. The owner was in accord that we change, so we now have Christophe Soumillion. Champion horse, champion jockey… the perfect combination! 

‘I had only been training the horse for 22 days before Newbury. It wasn’t easy to understand everything with him but I’ve been with him for 24 hours a day since. We’ve changed his feed, the system of training. 

‘But Big Rock has the mind of a champion. In this moment, I’ll tell you he’s improved. He’s in real good condition – big, strong, lots of power. He can stay at the top for the year! This is all a dream for me. To be a protagonist at Royal Ascot is something I cannot explain.’

Big Rock has fond memroies of Ascot after winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last October

Big Rock has fond memroies of Ascot after winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes last October


Trainer: Mario Barati Target: St James’s Palace Stakes, Tuesday Odds: 10/1

Barati is an emerging force, his star rising on the back of Metropolitan’s 33/1 success in the French 2000 Guineas last month. He only has 33 horses in his yard but the Italian, who was once Marco Botti’s assistant in Newmarket, gets big results and is aiming to shock Notable Speech and Rosallion.

Barati says: ‘When you take on good horses, you have nothing to lose. Metropolitan will run against the two best milers in Europe but I am looking forward to seeing what he does. 

‘He was very brave at the end of his race in Longchamp. You have to be very lucky to have a horse like this, especially in a small stable like mine. It’s a dream. Some trainers have tried for 40 years to get a Classic winner, I have one already. You have to learn fast in this job and the good horses will teach you many things.’


Trainer: Jerome Reynier Target: Prince Of Wales Stakes, Wednesday Odds: 25/1

Reynier is based in Marseille but his presence is being felt all over the world. He made everyone sit up and take notice of him when Factuer Cheval won the £2.2million Dubai Turf at Meydan in March and he sends that horse to the Queen Anne Stakes. 

His stablemate, however, shouldn’t be underestimated when he lines up against Auguste Rodin.

Reynier says: ‘We always liked him. He won five in a row last year. We supplemented him to run in the Prix Ganay, after he had won on his reappearance, but nothing went right that day. 

‘He got stuck out wide and burnt through too much petrol. But he deserves to take his chance in this race. We will ride him out at the back and hope they go fast enough so we come through to pick up the pieces. 

‘People say I’m doing well but I have an amazing team alongside me, the success we have is down to all the guys. There is a great dynamic here and we are improving the quality all the time. We want our horses to show they can run against the best in the world.’


Trainer: Christopher Head Target: Coronation Stakes, Friday Odds: 7/1

A filly with speed to burn and a high-profile co-owner in NBA legend Tony Parker, Ramatuelle suffered an agonising defeat in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last month. 

But Head took only pride from that effort and has been thrilled with his stable star’s work in the last four weeks. She is in tip-top shape for a showdown with the best three-year-old females.

Ramatuelle is co-owned by NBA legend Tony Parker who made his name at teh San Antonio Spurs

Ramatuelle is co-owned by NBA legend Tony Parker who made his name at teh San Antonio Spurs

Head says: ‘I really loved the Guineas. We are living this job and everyone is very passionate about it. The filly did something incredible that day and that is the only thing I remember. 

‘Of course I’ve watched the race back again. She is a very swift filly. She knows everything and I tried to make the training so it was easy for the jockey to ride her.

‘The atmosphere of the English racing is really perfect and every year the objective is for us to have runners good enough to compete there. The level of competition there is tremendous. We are talking about pure class. 

‘The horse that stands out for me was Goldikova, the most perfect filly I ever saw in my life. Milers are something incredible when they are good – they have charisma, personality. 

‘Ramatuelle has got something about her, trust me. This is going to be the race of the year. It would be justice for her to win a Group One.’


Trainer: Francis-Henri Graffard Target: King Edward VII Stakes, Friday Odds: 14/1

Graffard was responsible for France’s last Royal Ascot winner – Watch Me in the 2019 Coronation Stakes – and his horses must be feared when he travels them. He is a multiple Classic winner and he has made seven entries for next week. Calandagan is unheralded but he’s progressing quickly.

Nemone Routh, racing manager for owner The Aga Khan, says: ‘He is a proper mile-and-a-half horse who has done a lot of growing up. He’s got a lovely big stride and the King Edward will be a wonderful race for him. 

‘He used to have a problem with the stalls last year but then we gelded him and he is much simpler now. I’d say he’s very relaxed. This will be competitive but isn’t that what Ascot is about?’

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