After winning the first two scoring races on the European Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby, trainer Aidan O’Brien seeks the hat trick in Sunday’s Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) on Arc Day at ParisLongchamp. His Armory, the lone Irish shipper, must overcome a trio of unbeaten French colts. Godolphin’s Victor Ludorum, the early favorite, and Ecrivain are both tested on this circuit, while Chachnak has won in the provinces.
Victor Ludorum, “winner of the games” in Latin, has so far lived up to his name with a pair of dominant scores. The Andre Fabre pupil readily beat fellow newcomers over this course and about one-mile trip on September 1, then captured a conditions race at Chantilly by the same 3 1/2-length margin. A homebred son of hot Darley sire Shamardal, Victor Ludorum now faces stronger rivals in this stakes debut, as Godolphin’s Lisa-Jane Graffard observed.
“Victor Ludorum is taking a big step up in class,” Graffard said on godolphin.com, “but looks a very exciting horse for the future. He faces some horses with confirmed Group form for the first time and whatever he does this weekend will be a bonus as he is a horse to look forward to next year.”
Armory sports the gilt-edged form in the race, having finished best of the rest behind Europe’s top-rated juvenile Pinatubo (another Godolphin son of Shamardal) in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) at the Curragh. The Galileo colt had previously won three straight including a five-length conquest of the Tyros (G3) and a less flashy decision in the Futurity (G2) on yielding going. Untested beyond seven furlongs, Armory figures to improve with the extra furlong. The expected soft ground might be more of a question mark.
Wertheimer et Frere’s homebred Ecrivain offers the combination of undefeated Group-winning form plus proficiency on soft. Trained by Carlos Laffon-Parias, the son of Lope de Vega (himself a Shamardal stallion) got up in a blanket finish in a Deauville maiden for first-time starters. Ecrivain was more convincing in the course-and-distance prep for this race, the September 8 Prix des Chenes (G3), and he’s likely still progressing.
The third unbeaten French contender Chachnak, appears better than a merely provincial campaigner for trainer Fabrice Vermeulen. The well-bred son of Kingman and Group 2 winner Tamazirte, who was twice classic-placed in France, has been given an early entry for the 2020 Derby (G1) at Epsom – the only one in this field eligible for the British classic besides Armory. Chachnak has rallied to half-length victories at Vichy and Lyon Parilly and promises more.
Kenway wasn’t originally nominated, but earned a supplementary entry following his up-in-time score in the Prix la Rochette (G3). The winner of three of six starts and never off the board, the Frederic Rossi pupil had romped in a listed stakes at Vichy in his prior outing. Helter Skelter likewise ran away with a listed event at Deauville when last seen in August for Jean-Claude Rouget. Germany’s Alson, who comes off a Group 3 tally at Baden-Baden, has the option of contesting Sunday’s Preis des Winterfavoriten (G3).
The Lagardere, offering points on the European Road scoreboard on the 10-4-2-1 scale, is the 2ND race during Sunday’s extravaganza. Two races later in the 4TH, the great mare Enable bids for an unprecedented three-peat in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).