Defense bids to see off British
Criquette Head-Maarek expects National Defense to improve on his seasonal debut when he tackles the Poule D'Essai Des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at Deauville on Sunday.
While all of his three runs as a two-year-old were over a mile, including his Group One success in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, his prep outing for the Classic was over seven furlongs.
Though he had to play second fiddle in the Prix Djebel to Al Wukair, who went on to finish third in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Head was pleased with the display.
"The other day when he came back the trip was a little short for him. He ran a good race. He's improved from that race quite a lot physically and he's been working quite nicely," said Head-Maarek.
"We've got Monsieur (Christophe) Soumillon to ride him as his regular jockey (Pierre-Charles Boudot) is riding (Le Brivido) for his trainer (Andre Fabre). I don't think that's a disadvantage.
"Everything is OK. My horse is well and we'll see."
Aidan O'Brien has been pleased with Orderofthegarter, who has already come on in leaps and bounds this season with impressive victories at Naas and Leopardstown.
"We were delighted with his runs from the first to the second day and we're delighted with him really," said O'Brien, who opted against running former top two-year-old Caravaggio but is also responsible for Peace Envoy as he goes for a fifth win in the race.
Head-Maarek's brother Freddy Head saddles a promising type in Mankib, whose career up to now has been low key with three starts over a mile at Maisons-Laffitte.
"He's very much going the right way and is a progressive horse. Obviously this is a big step up," said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
"He's a home-bred out of Natagora (Newmarket 1000 Guineas winner in 2008) and won his maiden last year and won his comeback race quite nicely.
"I don't know if he's good enough to win a Guineas, but he's going the right way and I like the look of him.
"He's unexposed in terms of not having run in a trial against the better horses but we're happy with the way he's working at the moment."
William Haggas reports Rivet to be in tip-top shape and would welcome any rain for last year's Racing Post Trophy winner.
The son of Fastnet Rock showed his well-being with a promising run in his seasonal debut when second to Eminent in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket last month.
"He'll run a good race. He's in good form," said Haggas.
Michael Dods has a rare runner in a race of this nature but in Kings Gift he has a colt who has shown decent form in Pattern events.
The son of Casamento showed he was not out of place in strong company when fourth to last weekend's 2000 Guineas runner-up Barney Roy in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury.
"He obviously ran a good race at Newbury and we think another furlong with a bit of cut in the ground will suit him," said Darlington-based Dods.
"The Newbury form has worked out very well with the two horses running well in the Guineas last weekend, so we'll see what he can do on Sunday.
"It's a very tough race, but Geoff (Turnbull, owner) likes to have a go and it would be great if he could pick up some black type in a Group One race."
Andrew Balding sends over South Seas, who was second to Godolphin's Thunder Snow in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud, although he cut no ice on his return on the all-weather at Newcastle a month ago.
The other British-trained hopeful is Salsabeel, from Charlie Appleby's yard, who is also going up appreciably in grade after finishing second in a conditions race at Newmarket last month.
"I've been delighted with his progress from his race at the Craven meeting," said Appleby.
"I think the conventional track will suit him and we go there full of confidence he will run a nice race.
"We know he has a bit to find on the book, but he's in great order and I'm looking forward to seeing him run."
Godolphin have a second string to their bow in Inns Of Court from the Fabre stable.
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