By Tom Peacock at Deauville
On a weekend when the international big-spenders arrive in Deauville for the yearling sales, Karl Burke could hardly have picked a better moment to advertise his talent for finding a bargain than on Sunday.
The success of the Brits abroad has been a continuing theme during the month-long summer season on the Normandy coast, with Brando collecting the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Eminent and Sobetsu striking within the last week.
The raiding party claimed all three Pattern races on Sunday’s card, with Roger Varian’s Ajman Princess dominating the Group One Prix Jean Romanet from the front.
Following on from Quiet Reflection last year, Burke has clearly unearthed a couple of stars. The hardy Havana Grey, winner of four of his six previous starts including the Molecomb Stakes, was given every chance by PJ McDonald but perhaps only served to set it up for Tony Piccone and his stablemate, who was a narrow winner of a messy Prix Robert Papin.
A length and a quarter split them at the line, while the French-trained Royal Ascot winner Different League stayed on for third.
“I woke up this morning and I couldn’t believe when I looked at the betting that the three colts were the outsiders in the British betting,” said Burke. “I was very tempted to do the forecast but unfortunately I didn’t.
“I feel sorry for the grey horse, hopefully there’s a big day in him one day. They are two very good colts.
“It’s been a lucky track for us, we won the Romanet here a couple of years ago but getting a one-two in the Morny is pretty special.”
Of Unfortunately, Burke continued: “I knew six furlongs would suit and you’d have to say that the Middle Park is the route for him. He’s getting better and better. We’ll have to have a think with Havana Grey. PJ came back and said maybe he should have kicked on earlier, and I think he’ll get six furlongs as well."
Nyaleti did not seem to be the same enthusiastic filly that had blitzed the field in the Princess Margaret Stakes and was only sixth under James Doyle.
“The jockey said he never felt happy with her and I think you can see that by the way she ran,” said trainer Mark Johnston. “We’ll have to get her home but it wasn’t her day.”
There was a nervy wait for Varian after Ajman Princess, who had been given a fine front-running ride by a steady Andrea Atzeni and had enough in the tank to power a length and a quarter clear of Siyoushake and Left Hand. The stewards had a long look into a concertina-effect to half of the field turning for home.
Favourite So Mi Dar, who made a belated recent seasonal reappearance in the Nassau Stakes, was keen throughout and eventually finished fifth.
“We had to wait a similar length when we won the Prix de l’Opera a few years ago, so we’re used to it,” said Varian of Ajman Princess, who had only risen as high as Listed level before. “She’s a tough filly and Andrea gave her a great ride.
“Coming between the Nassau and the Yorkshire Oaks, this was a very attractive spot for her. Whatever she does now, she’s a Group One winner and a valuable breeding prospect. She’s in races like the Opera and the Fillies & Mares on British Champions Day.”
Of So Mi Dar, Simon Marsh, representing owner Lord Lloyd Webber said: “It was disappointing that she didn’t win but Frankie Dettori said she’s strengthened up and will be better running over a mile next time.”
Completing an excellent return for the British team was another one-two in the Prix Kergorlay. Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo, given another peach of a front-running ride by Christophe Soumillon, to held off the closing Desert Skyline for David Elsworth.
Ed Goodwin, one of the The Fairy Story partnership who own Marmelo, said: “Hopefully we can come back to France on Arc weekend now (for the Prix du Cadran).”