The Dark Horse previews the Prix De L'opera on Arc day and has a 50/1 each way selection.
The luxury hotel barge, Nymphea, glides her way along the River Cher in the Loire Valley at a leisurely pace carrying up to six passengers.
The horse, Nymphea, only has to carry one passenger today, jockey Dennis Schiergen, and she will be travelling much quicker than the maximum speed of the barge of 14 knots as she travels over the 2000m trip of the Prix De L’Opera.
The Peter Schiergen-trained 5yo mare hardly looks an obvious contender for this race having been beaten 14 lengths and 11½ lengths on her 2 most recent starts and those efforts have caused her to be the 50-1 outsider of the 11-runner field.
However, there are obvious excuses for those runs. She went off at a strong pace at Goodwood over 1m6f, a trip she was already unlikely to stay. She did admirably well to still only be 2 lengths behind 2f out before weakening, and she was heavily eased 1f out when being about 5 lengths down and having nothing left.
On her last run at Veliefendi in the Bosphorus Cup she once again led and was a couple of lengths in front turning the final bend but didn’t pick up in the very soft ground and quickly dropped away once headed.
I think Nymphea needs decent ground and a distance between 1m2f and 1m4f, and she gets that today.
Last year she put up 3 good performances in a row when 2nd at Haydock to Moment In Time before winning a Group 1 at Hoppegarten by 3 lengths when making all, and finishing a close 3rd in the Bosphorus Cup.
She has already run well this season in France when given suitable conditions. On her first run for about 5½ months at Saint Cloud in May, she ran very well in a Group 2 over 2100m on good to soft ground. Having been nudged along to get to the lead, she set a good pace and was 2½ lengths in front turning the final bend. She was headed just over 200m out but kept responding well to pressure to get back past a couple of horses who initially headed her and finished in a dead heat for 3rd, beaten a nose for 2nd. This was a good performance after a break and carrying a 2kg penalty for winning a Group 1. The form of the race has a solid look to it:
- Siljan’s Saga (1st) – finished a very close 3rd past the post (promoted to 2nd later) in the Group 1 Grand Prix De Saint Cloud on her next start
- Daksha (DH 3rd) – Won a Group 3 on her previous start
- Baltic Baroness (5th) – Won all 3 of her starts since, 2 Listed races and the Group 1 Prix Vermeille
- Entree (6th) – 2nd in a Group 3 on her previous start and has won her 2 races since in Listed company
- Star Lahib (7th) – Won a Group 2 at Deaville on her latest start
- Gaga A (8th) – Won a Listed race since
- Ipswich (9th) – Finished 2nd in 2 Group 3s on her next 2 starts
Nymphea is drawn well in stall 4 to get to the rail in front and while she may receive some pressure on the lead from Crisolles, Schiergen should still be able to ride the race to suit him. He may be able to slip away from the field turning down the hill and with her being an outsider, the field may choose to allow her to go a few lengths clear. Given her ability to stay further that could make her dangerous as he can try to turn the race isn’t more of a stamina than speed test at the distance.
There are plenty of dangers to her in what is a wide open but not overly strong Group 1. The aforementioned Crisolles is a danger in terms of being an early pace spoiler, with a switch to very prominent/front running tactics having worked well on her last 2 starts. She was slowly away 2 starts ago and while she was quickly able to recover, she may soon find a wall of horses in front of her today if repeating that.
Sultanina beat Narniyn at Goodwood earlier this year but I’m not convinced the very quick surface or the track suited Narniyn, so she could reverse that form.
Tarfasha finished 2nd in the Oaks and won a Group 2 at the Curragh last time beating Chicquita. This looks an ideal ground and distance combination for her and she is likely to go close if able to get a run on the inside.
Shamkala and We Are are both here on recovery missions having disappointed of late, while Lavender Lane could improve for the switch to better ground.
Nymphea likely needs a few of these horses to perform below their peak to get involved but she could well have an advantageous track position and I think she should be around 16-1, so the 50-1 on offer appeals.