Saonois Springs Upset in Prix du Jockey-Club

Outsider by Chichicastenango denies Aidan O'Brien's French Derby quest at Chantilly.

Outsider Saonois found room between horses and raced into the clear in the final yards to post a 33-1 upset in the Prix du Jockey-Club (Fr-I) at Chantilly June 3.

A field of 20 went to the post in the Prix du Jockey-Club, otherwise known as the French Derby, with French Fifteen going off as a tepid 5-1 favorite. Many eyes were on Joseph O’Brien and Imperial Monarch as the rider attempted to not only provide his father Aidan with his first winner in the French classic, but also tried to score a English-French Derby double.

The Aga Khan’s Kesampour was also highly thought of following his victory in the Prix Greffulhe (Fr-II) in May. Pretty much dismissed by the bettors was Saonois, a son of Chichicastenango who had won four of seven starts but had been defeated by Kesampour last time out, albeit by just three-quarters of a length.

The start was good for everyone except for Hidden Flame, who was the last to load and broke sharply to his left when leaving the gate. He quickly recovered and was held up toward the rear of the field by jockey Ioritz Mendizabal as Tifongo set the pace.

Tifongo was tracked closely by Nutello and Lunayir. Jockey Antoine Hamelin kept Saonois settled toward the rear along with Imperial Monarch and French Fifteen as the field remained tightly-bunched through the early running.

As the field entered the wide, sweeping turn, Amaron moved past Tifongo to take the lead. Hot on his heels was Lunayir, with Saonois making steady progress as he weaved his way between horses in heavy traffic.

When the field hit the top of the lane it was still anyone’s race, with a mad scramble for the lead. With 200 meters left, it appeared to be a three-way fight between Kesampour, Nutello, and Saint Baudolino. Hamelin finally found a seam between horses and Saonois shot through, bursting into the clear in the final strides to win by three-quarters of a length.

Saint Baudolino was second, a head in front of Nutello, with Kesampour just a nose away in fourth. Imperial Monarch encountered plenty of traffic problems of his own and came home eighth, with French Fifteen two necks further behind him in tenth.

Final time for the just over ten furlongs was 2:08.10 over a good to soft turf course.

Saonois is trained by J.P. Gauvin for owner Pascal Treyve. The bay colt was bred in France by Earl Haras De Nonant Le Pin, and is out of the winning Homme De Loi mare, Saonoise.