Champion mare Goldikova made the perfect start to her 5-year-old campaign, winning the Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I) by a half-length over Byword at Longchamp May 23.
The dual Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) heroine, who as usual caused a bit of a delay at the start, broke sharply and was content to sit off the quick early pace set by Next Vision and Celebrissime. The pacesetters opened up a few lengths on the field but Olivier Peslier, who has ridden Goldikova throughout her career, showed no signs of being worried, allowing Goldikova to settle behind the leaders in third.
Multiple group I winner Stacelita was rated toward the rear of the field, along with the promising Byword, winner of the Prix Du Muguet (Fr-II) in his last start.
As the field entered the long turn into the home straight, both pacesetters began to fade. Byword was under a full head of steam and was making an impressive move along the inside rail under jockey Maxime Guyon. The pair hit the front at the same time as Goldikova, who had swept by the leaders on the outside.
Byword and Goldikova matched strides briefly, but Goldikova went into another gear and drew off. The nine furlongs of the Prix d’Ispahan may have stretched Goldikova’s stamina a bit, as Byword cut into her lead in the final yards to finish just a half-length behind her at the wire.
Wiener Walzer, a multiple group I winner in Germany, got up for third, 10 lengths further back. Stacelita was never a factor, finishing fourth.
Final time for the nine furlongs over the good turf course was 1:49.40, which set a stakes record.
Goldikova, who finished seventh in this race last year, is scheduled to make her next start in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot.
Winning trainer Freddie Head told reporters after the race, “She is extraordinary. She broke the record for the race, and it was a tough race.”
Head continued, “That was over nine furlongs today, too. A mile is her distance, definitely, she is a miler.”
Goldikova was bred in Ireland by her owners, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer. She is by the deceased French stallion Anabaa, out of Born Gold, by Blushing Groom. She hails from the immediate female family of French champion Gold River.