Like a student preparing for her graduation year, Aidan O'Brien's Maybe sauntered into her three year old career having passed all of the exams that England and Ireland threw in front of her. There were some nervous times and some scintillating efforts but whilst many students would push on to achieve their very best in that crucial year, Maybe has failed to fire thus far. The English 1000 Guineas didn't see Maybe take that perfect record to six and, despite worries about her ability to stay in the Epsom Oaks, her failure to regain the winning thread at Epsom now sees her sit five-for-seven. Friday at Newmarket will see the daughter of Galileo on a mission for redemption as she slowly falls down the pecking order in her bid for Champion Three Year Old Filly. In an open division, this could be Maybe's biggest test yet, her Finals exam so to speak, but a race she is fully capable of winning if she remembers just how good she really is. Standing in her way, Golden Lilac; Last seen defeating the versatile Cirrus Des Aigles in the Prix D'Ispahan, Golden Lilac has long been an exciting prospect for Andre Fabre. Exceptional in her victories in the Poule D'Essai des Pouliches and the Prix de Diane, many started to believe that Fabre had a horse in his stable that could bring back memories of Zarkava. However, no sooner was that belief aired that defeat was on the cards for the very first time for Fabre's star. Having battled with Goldikova's half-sister, Galikova, for the majority of the early season, the Prix Guillame D'Ornano finally saw Galikova gain victory over her rival by an extending four lengths. A raid on the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe was off the cards for Golden Lilac from here onwards and her season over. Many believed Golden Lilac would not be seen on the race track again but her performance in the Prix D'Ispahan showed that Golden Lilac was not only back, but that she had returned with the ability to compete in a significantly big way in Group 1 contests.
A French raid on the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket's luscious July course has been a familiar fixture in recent years with both Goldikova and Saphresa entering the race with a favoured chance, but this year sees the new prospect of a treble-raid from France. Andre Fabre, Francois Doumen and Alain de Royer-Dupre all send fillies over in a bid to reclaim the Falmouth Stakes trophy for France. All three of the raiders see this as their first foray out of France; Whilst this is a familiar level for Golden Lilac to compete at, it's Siyouma's inaugural attempt at the highest level and only Giofra's second attempt for Group 1 glory. Siyoma is an interesting prospect, she hasn't raced over as few furlongs at this before and with Gerald Mosse on board she certainly has an outside chance. France and the English bookmakers look to favour Giofra more but an eight length defeat at the hands of Cirrus des Aigles may just be overplayed here. I prefer Siyouma but struggle to see how either can beat their compatriot, Golden Lilac, here.
The renewal of a Royal Ascot rivalry is also on the cards. With John Gosden's Joviality seemingly tuning up for the Beverly D at Arlington Park in August, she reengages in battle with Sir Henry Cecil's Chachamaidee. Chachamaidee comes into this with a bit to prove having received numerous doubts from multiple corners about her ability over the straight mile. Many believe that she is a sprinter running well over a longer distance yet her performances at the business end in her mile races suggests that it may just be a case of pressing the button at the right time. She flies towards the finish in her races with a beautiful running style and one day she will gain a Group 1 over this distance, however, a French raid could hinder her chances of victory this time. Victorious in this race last year with the Juddmonte Farms owned Timepiece, Sir Henry Cecil certainly knows what it takes to win this race and Chachamaidee certainly looks to pose the most serious threat from England this year. Joviality comes into this having taken the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes over her rivals at Royal Ascot with a gritty display holding off Chachamaidee near the finish by an ever decreasing length. This was Joviality's finest hour to date but the rising ground at Newmarket towards the finish may just find her out here. Andrew Balding's Lay Time, third in the Windsor Forest, also reopposes here.
Joviality isn't the only John Gosden horse on view here. Having failed to fire in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf of last year, Elusive Kate makes her seasonal reappearance in an attempt to return to the glory of her Prix Marcel Boussac victory. The joint top rated two year old in England last year, Elusive Kate has since been purchased by Teruya Yoshida who also purchased Saphresa prior to her fine second place in this race last year. Despite being based in England, Elusive Kate has proved just that - elusive - to British race fans having raced just twice in this country in six starts and France could arguably claim her as their fourth runner here. The Prix Six Perfections and the Prix du Calvados were both taken down en route to her Prix Marcel Boussac victory in good style and this is an intriguing step for Gosden to take whilst in such good form. Frankie Dettori is booked for the mount.
Can Maybe return to her former glory in this race? The apple of Joseph O'Brien's eye renews her friendship with Ryan Moore on Friday for the first time since their sublime victory in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot last year. This is her final exam, her final test to prove whether she has studied hard in a bid to gain the very best results she can achieve, but there's a French filly standing in her way this time. Whilst Saphresa may have narrowly failed to regain the Falmouth Stakes trophy for France, Golden Lilac looks to have all the credentials needed to finish the job that Collet's charge couldn't complete.
Standby to be dazzled by another exciting French filly.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)