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French Connection: Banks Hill heads strong Royal Ascot raiding party.

Byline: desmond stoneham

Horses trained in France will line up for three of the five Group 1 races at Royal Ascot next week - and all have fine prospects of making the frame.

However, the best value bet in the team travelling over from Chantilly could

be Darinska, who will run

in Thursday's Ribblesdale Stakes in the colours of Princess Zahra Aga

Khan.

Sheikh Mohammed's Bowman sets the ball rolling for France on Tuesday in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes, while the following day last year's Coronation Stakes heroine Banks Hill and Poussin run in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes.

Although a final decision still has to be made, it looks likely that Francois Doumen will saddle Speedmaster in the Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday.

Banks Hill will probably start at cramped odds in the Prince of Wales's Stakes. However, she is a class act as she showed at last year's meeting and when landing the ten-furlong Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

The recent rain is a worry, though - she needs at least good ground to show her best.

On her reappearance in the Prix d'Ispahan, Banks Hill was third to Best Of The Bests and Poussin, but was given a tender ride and can only improve.

Her rider Olivier Peslier says: "She's done well between three and four and was beaten in the Ispahan by horses who had already run. It was her seasonal debut and I was not hard on her."

Dominique Boeuf will ride Poussin, never out of the frame in eight starts.

Supporters of Bowman should have a great run for their money. Following an excellent piece of work at Chantilly, the Irish River colt was supplemented for the St James's Palace by trainer Andre Fabre.

Bowman was a fast-finishing third to Landseer in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains after encountering traffic problems in the straight which may well have cost him the race.

He has plenty of speed in his pedigree, being out of Group 1-winning sprinter Cherokee Rose, so will the stiff mile find him wanting?

Peslier doesn't believe so, saying: "He's a good colt who will stay and is a progressive sort. He needs an even gallop and has been working well."

Darinska, who always wears blinkers, is a fresh filly having run just twice. She followed in the footsteps of her dam by taking the Prix Flossie at Saint-Cloud, and then the daughter of Zilzal was beaten just over a length when third behind Dance Routine in the Group 3 Prix de Royaumont.

She was given quite a lot to do that day, and Dance Routine has since finished second in the Prix de Diane.

Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre says: "She stays well, prefers good or firmer ground and has taken her last race well."

Speedmaster may prove each-way value in the Gold Cup. He won the Group 2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier last year and was running on when second to Wareed in the same race a month ago.

Doumen says: "He is progressing all the time. At the end of last year, he was operated on for a chip in a joint and was out of training for three months.

"It has taken a little time to get him right again, but he will have come on from his last race."

CAPTION(S):

Banks Hill: set to line up in the Prince of Wales's Stakes
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 14, 2002
Words:568
Previous Article:mark johnston: Bouquet of the week.
Next Article:French Connection: Top French equine artist is back for his third exhibition.


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