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Horse Racing: O'Brien worries over ground as Spencer back on Valorem; PREVIEW: FRANCE Prix Jacques Le Marois G1 Deauville G1 (3.25, live on ATR and RUK).

Byline: Nicholas Godfrey

WITH Kieren Fallon in action in Ireland, Jamie Spencer is reunited today with Aidan O'Brien as the Ballydoyle maestro bids to collect his first Jacques le Marois with Royal Ascot winner Ad Valorem, writes Desmond Stoneham.

With Godolphin's Librettist and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Peeress in opposition, there is a strong overseas challenge for one of the most prestigious 1m events in the calendar, sponsored by the Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard.

However, France mounts a strong defence in the Group 1 race, headed by Prix Jean Prat winner Stormy River, runner-up in the St James's Palace Stakes, and Manduro, who has been laid out for this by Andre Fabre.

Spencer is undefeated on Ad Valorem, numbering the Middle Park among three victories on him as a two-year-old when he was Ballydoyle's retained rider.

The Danzig colt holds sound claims after winning a controversial Queen Anne Stakes last time out from subsequent Sussex Stakes winner Court Masterpiece.

However, O'Brien expressed concern about the ground, which has been watered and was officially described as good to soft yesterday.

"Since Ascot it has always been the plan to go for either the Sussex or the Jacques le Marois, but fast ground is a big must for this colt," said the trainer. "Everything's gone well since Ascot and, hopefully, the going will be respectable."

Cheveley Park's Lockinge Stakes winner Peeress was an unlucky-in-running fourth behind Ad Valorem in the Queen Anne before filling the same spot in the Falmouth, which was run at a false pace.

Looking back at those races, Stoute said: "I'm not sure she'd have won at Ascot because there were more hard-luck stories as they tightened up in the closing stages, then the race went wrong from the gate in the Falmouth, when the ground was too quick for her.

"It would be nice if there was some rain before the race. She appears in good shape and has a good chance."

Librettist, another son of Danzig, returns to France after beating today's rivals Helios Quercus and Manduro, who was conceding 7lb, in the Group 3 Prix Messidor last month. Connections are hoping for softish ground for Librettist, who has won all of his three starts since returning from a 20-month layoff.

For the home team, Stormy River bids to press his claims to become the leading three-year-old miler of the season. The Classic generation has a good record here in recent seasons thanks to the likes of Dubawi, Whipper, Six Perfections and Dubai Millennium.

Quotes

Nicolas Clement, trainer of Stormy River

"He's certainly gone the right way since his win at Chantilly and we're very happy with him. There are no more races for top-class three-year-olds at this time of year, so we are forced into taking on the older horses now, but we were happy to see Marchand D'Or win last weekend against the older horses as we beat him comfortably first time out this season."

Simon Crisford, racing manager to Librettist's owners Godolphin

"We're happy with the way he's been going, but this is a different race altogether to the ones he has been competing in until now. He's now ready to take his chance at this level, but whether he's good enough, we'll find out on the day."

Alduino Botti, trainer of Ramonti

"Ramonti is a very good horse, but he prefers testing ground. He has never run on a straight track and likes to make all the running."

Paul Harley, racing manager to Manduro's owner Baron Georg von Ullmann

"It was Mr Fabre's decision to bring him back to a mile and he's done very well since the Messidor."

John Marsh, racing manager to Peeress's owner Cheveley Park Stud

"We've planned to run her in France as the easier ground should help her and she was in very good form when I saw her last weekend. I hope there is a decent pace so she'll be allowed to settle in behind and Ryan Moore can produce her with her customary late run."

CAPTION(S):

Jamie Spencer on Ad Valorem after winning the Middle Park in 2004
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2006
Words:683
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