Qemah eyes Rothschild prize

Qemah (C, silver, maroon cap) will defend her crown

Qemah will defend her crown against a high-class raiding party in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville on Sunday.

Jean-Claude Rouget's filly claimed the Group One prize off the back of winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer and returns in a similar position, having struck gold in Berkshire for a second time in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.

Harry Herbert, racing manager for owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: "She's a dual Group One winner, so she's in the appropriate spot and this has been her target since Ascot.

"As you would expect, it looks a very good race, but Qemah won it last year.

"She's in very good form and Jean-Claude seems very happy with her, so fingers crossed she can hold onto her title.

"I don't think we're too worried about ground conditions. I think we'd be more worried about running her on ground that was too quick than too slow.

"Hopefully she'll be fine."

There are three British challengers in Roger Varian's recent Fairyhouse Group Three winner Realtra, Saeed bin Suroor's Falmouth Stakes third Arabian Hope and the long-absent Persuasive, from John Gosden's Newmarket yard.

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Varian is looking forward to testing Realtra in Group One company for a second time after she finished fifth in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket in October 2015.

The Newmarket trainer told www.varianstable.com: "Realtra is in great form and while this is a step up in grade following her Group Three win earlier in the month, the course will suit and she ought to acquit herself very creditably,"

Persuasive won her first five starts for owners Cheveley Park Stud, but has not been seen in competitive action since she filled the runner-up spot – one place ahead of Qemah – in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown last September.

Cheveley Park managing director Chris Richardson said: "We've just been waiting on the ground and the right race.

"Royal Ascot came and went – we didn't want to expose her on ground that was too firm – and we've just had to stay patient.

"She has competed against many of these fillies before and run very well.

"There's no doubt that she'll improve for the run, but she's in good form and John is very happy with her.

"If she can run into the frame that would be great and it will be a nice stepping-stone for other races like the Matron again."

Irish hopes rest with Falmouth heroine Roly Poly, who bids to provide Aidan O'Brien with a first victory in one of the few top-level European races that have so far eluded him.

Andre Fabre has won the prize a joint-record five times and saddles the Godolphin-owned Usherette, who was just a length behind Qemah at Royal Ascot last month after having encountered trouble in running, and Via Ravenna.

Freddy Head's pair of Dame Du Roi and Siyoushake and the Satoshi Kobayashi-trained Furia Cruzada complete the 10-strong field.

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