'We can now go to Royal Ascot with high hopes' - Facteur Cheval leads Jerome Reynier's three-pronged Royal Ascot attack

Dubai Turf hero will be joined by the progressive Darlinghurst and Zarakem.

FACTEUR CHEVAL (centre) winning the Dubai Turf at Meydan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
FACTEUR CHEVAL (centre) winning the Dubai Turf at Meydan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Picture: Neville Hopwood/Getty Images

Jerome Reynier is yet to taste British success, but he certainly knows what it takes to be competitive across the English Channel having saddled Facteur Cheval to chase home Paddington in both the Group 1 Sussex Stakes and Big Rock in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The Marseille-based handler hatched an ambitious plan for his stable star to make his seasonal reappearance in the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan in March and was duly rewarded when the Team Valor-owned five-year-old defied odds of 20/1 to prevail by a short-head.

All eyes will now turn to Ascot for Reynier, and with Facteur Cheval as short 9/2 for the opening day Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at the royal meeting next Tuesday, it's easy to see why confidence is high in the French camp. "He raced only once this season when winning the Dubai Turf after a long winter break and has come back in really good shape. We're very happy with him," said Reynier, speaking on a Zoom call to the media organised by QIPCO British Champions Series.

"Obviously, he knows the straight mile at Ascot very well having finished behind Big Rock in the Queen Elizabeth last year, but the ground conditions were not the same as what they are going to be next week. We saw Facteur Cheval performing really well on good ground in Dubai so now he's ticking many boxes, and we can now go to Royal Ascot with high hopes."

The five-year-old son of Ribchester has just Inspiral (9/4) and Charyn (7/2) ahead of him in the betting and with the form of his Meydan success working out well, Reynier will be hoping the decision to drop back a furlong for the Royal Ascot over a tilt at Prince of Wales's can prove the correct move. 

"The form from Dubai is amazing. The second Namur ran a cracker when second in the Yasuda Kinen (in Japan) and the Godolphin horse who finished fourth (Measured Time) won a Grade One in America. Even the horse who finished eighth (Calif) won the La Coupe in Longchamp and it was a very strong race.

"Maxime rode an amazing race (in Meydan), and I really liked the way he was galloping out after the winning post.

"He still had plenty of energy and maybe we could see him over a mile and a quarter in the future, but right now we had the choice between the Prince of Wales's or the Queen Anne and we thought it would be good to stick to going one mile straight. You always need that little bit more stamina than just being a miler and I think it fits him well."

Should Reynier be successful in the opening contest at Ascot next Tuesday, he won't have much time to celebrate as the Marseille maestro gears up to saddle the exciting Darlinghurst just an hour and forty-five minutes later in the St James's Palace Stakes.

A winner of four of his six starts to date, Darlinghurst saw the form of his latest Group 3 Prix de Guiche success boosted when the runner-up First Look went on to fill the same silver medal position in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club. "I'm really looking forward to seeing this race, it is going to be very interesting with all three of the Guineas winners," said Reynier. "It will be interesting to see who the number one three-year-old colt in Europe is."

"Darlinghurst has beaten First Look who was runner-up in the French Derby, his form is very good and we're very happy with the horse. He is very easy to deal with and I know he will travel well and is in good shape."

Reynier is under no illusion that the progressive three-year-colt is about to face the best in Europe over a mile, but fully expects him to be competitive with his turn of foot a potent weapon according to his trainer. 

"I think his main quality is his turn of foot and if he can follow a horse with his high cruising speed and Christophe (Soumillon) can show him a gap or bring him on the outside, then he has got one furlong (burst) really, really fast. If he can use his turn of foot in the closing stages, then he will be finishing really well."

On what it would mean to saddle a first Royal Ascot winner, Reynier continued:"A first win in Britain during Royal Ascot would be unreal, so I just hope the horses travel safe ahead of D-Day.

"Ascot is something I have been watching on TV for many years, I was lucky enough to run Royal Julius in the Prince of Wales's six years ago.

"That was a good trip, I was driving the horse box myself and taking care of the horse myself and it was a great memory. This year I will only be going on the Tuesday and Wednesday, and we are staying Monday until Thursday so we will be able to enjoy it.

"When we came over for the Sussex Stakes, we flew over, the horse ran and then we were dashing to catch our flight, so I wasn't really able to enjoy it and the same with the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, I wasn't able to stay for the Champion Stakes as the flight was straight after the race.

"This time I'm sure we will make sure we will enjoy ourselves and I will be in the French tent in the car park having a good time."

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