French cannons loaded for British campaign
JIM McGRATH in Paris
The French battalions are mustering for an assault on the first of the British Classics, which are due to be run early next month.
Chantilly-trained Pas de Reponse gave warning to would-be rivals entered for the Pertemps 1,000 Guineas that she is better than ever following her winter break; the filly shortened two points to 6-1 with Corals following a bloodless victory in Friday's Prix Imprudence at Maisons-Laffitte.
The Danzig filly, who overwhelmed the Godolphin-owned-and-trained Moonlight Paradise in last year's Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket, is now on course to follow Ma Biche and Ravinella, who were also trained at Chantilly by Criquette Head, with a crack at the fillies' showpiece over 1,600 metres on May 4.
Pas de Reponse sailed through this seven-furlong prep race with a minimum of fuss. She made all under Freddie Head and, although shaken up towards the end, was never in danger.
The 30-100 shot cruised home by 2.5 lengths from Barnata, with Psylla last of the three runners, three lengths away. As trials go, nothing more could have been expected of the winner, who has now suffered defeat only once in five starts.
Criquette Head said: 'We were very satisfied by the run and it should serve to dust off all the cobwebs prior to Newmarket. Freddie pushed her out so as to ensure that she got maximum benefit from the race. She should be perfect for Newmarket.
'Pas de Reponse does everything so easily at home that I told Freddie to make sure she had a good bit of work today. I couldn't be happier with her,' she added. No doubt, the tape of this performance will be scrutinised in Dubai, where the Godolphin camp has been quietly hopeful for Moonlight Paradise throughout the winter.
Winning jockey Freddie Head said of Pas de Reponse: 'It was a funny sort of trial for her. I am very pleased with her and she will be perfect in a month's time.' The Henry Cecil-trained Sleepytime is favourite for the 1,000 Guineas at 5-2, with Moonlight Paradise at 5-1, and Pas de Reponse and Reams Of Verse both at 6-1.
Newmarket trainer Clive Brittain could not wait for the traditional trials at Headquarters next week. He sent the capable Fantastic Fellow, who proved equally adept in a front-running role in Maison-Laffitte's other seven-furlong Classic trial, the listed Prix Djebel. The winner was sent off at 22-10.
Olivier Peslier's mount had Catfriend for company in the early stages, but ultimately Nombre Premier proved the danger. However, Fantastic Fellow proved up to the task and found an extra gear to win a shade comfortably by three quarters of a length.
Brittain said: 'Fantastic Fellow has done very well over the winter and it will now be a question of going back to the owners and deciding the next move. He is entered in both the French 2000 Guineas, the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, and the English 2000 Guineas.'