Valyra, part of a three-horse entry owned by the Aga Khan, got up in the final strides to capture the Prix de Diane-Longines (Fr-I), or French Oaks, by three-quarters of a length at Chantilly June 17.
Dismissed at odds of 28-1, the daughter of Azamour was the outsider in the Aga Khan’s entry, which included recent Montjeu Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary (Fr-I) winner Sagawara and Dalkala, the undefeated winner of the Prix Cleopatre (Fr-III). Although undefeated in two starts herself, Valyra had yet to face stakes competition.
A field of a dozen 3-year-old fillies went to the post in the Prix de Diane, with favoritism falling on Beauty Parlour, winner of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Fr-I) last month. Also considered to have a strong chance was the Aidan O’Brien-trained Kissed, a stakes-winning half sister to 2011 Investec Derby (Eng-I) winner, Pour Moi.
Kissed was sent immediately to the lead by Joseph O’Brien. She was tracked closely by Best of All and Sagawara, with Beauty Parlour just behind the leaders in fourth. Johnny Murtagh settled Valyra, who was a bit outpaced early, toward the rear of the field through the early stages.
Kissed set a strong pace all the while being shadowed by Best of All, who raced just off her flank in second. With just over two furlongs left, Christophe Soumillon asked Beauty Parlour for her best and she responded, matching strides briefly with Kissed before charging to the lead.
At the same time, Valyra had made steady progress on the front runners, weaving between horses before finally getting into the clear on the outside. Under a strong drive by Murtagh, Valyra sliced into Beauty Parlour’s lead, collaring the favorite and edging clear in the final strides for the victory.
Rjwa ran on well to take third, finishing three lengths behind Beauty Parlour. Kissed, who had faded badly through the stretch to finish next to last, was reported to have fractured the sesamoid bones in her left front leg. The filly was resting comfortably according to Anne-Marie O’Brien, and has been retired.
Valyra, who is trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, provided the Aga Khan with a record seventh winner in the Diane.
After the race, winning rider Murtagh said, “The race worked brilliantly, I just traveled round into the straight after being a little bit outpaced. When she came on the bridle in the straight I was always going to win. I was confident from two and a half furlongs down I was always going to get there.”
Valyra is the third foal and third stakes winner out of Valima, a stakes-winning daughter of Linamix. Valyra was bred in England by the Aga Khan, and hails from the immediate family of Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Val Royal and Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I) winner Valixir.