Sir Michael Stoute has notched 11 Group One victories in France during in a storied career, although the Prix Ganay has thus far eluded him. Bay Bridge will bid to fill that hole on the master trainer’s CV when he lines up at ParisLongchamp, live on Sky Sports Racing.
The Newmarket handler was set to send last season’s Champion Stakes hero to Sandown for his first run of his five-year-old campaign, but decided against taking on former Derby winner Adayar in Friday’s Gordon Richards Stakes, which is perhaps just as well given the fixture was ultimately abandoned.
Instead, he will lock horns with Vadeni, who beat him in the Coral-Eclipse, and fellow Group One scorers Place Du Carrousel, Onesto and Iresine, who are among a field of eight in Sunday’s extended 10-furlong contest.
Bay Bridge started 2022 off by winning the Group Three Brigadier Gerard at Sandown in very taking fashion and was then beaten a length by State Of Rest in the Prince of Wales’s Stake at Royal Ascot.
While things did not go according to plan when hampered as favourite in the Eclipse, he took Baaeed’s unbeaten record and held off Adayar on his final start to gain Group One laurels at Ascot.
James Wigan, who co-owns the son of New Bay with Ballylinch Stud, explained the thinking behind the switch from a planned outing in Esher to a trip to Paris.
“I think he’s fine and has wintered well,” he said. “Sir Michael was thinking of going to Sandown and we changed our minds.
“Sandown was our original thought, but then he would have carried a penalty for being a Group One winner after August, so being 7lb worse off with Adayar would have meant he would have a hard race at any rate, so we felt he might as well have a hard race in a Group One as in a Group Three.
“There are a few other Group One winners in it and it won’t be easy, but he races off level weights and this is a good starting point.”
Bay Bridge looks set for another big season with mid-summer targets fluid at present.
Wigan added: “There will be the usual pattern of races for him. You have the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the end of May, then there’s the Prince of Wales’s, which he was second in last year. You have things like the Juddmonte International. You have to take them one at a time. I’m sure Sir Michael knows where he’ll want to go, but this is a good spot to begin.”
The other British raider is Real World, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who had the misfortune to be second to the brilliant Baaeed in both the Lockinge and the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot last year.
The Godolphin handler hopes he can break his Group One duck this term, with Oisin Murphy coming in for the ride on the six-year-old, but feels the Ganay might be a tall order.
Bin Suroor said: “We are going to France and this will be like a preparation for the Lockinge. When he goes to the Lockinge, this race will have put him spot on. The Lockinge is a mile, but he won over a mile and a quarter in a Listed race at Newbury.
“France looks a very tough race. We look it as a preparation for the Lockinge, but it would be nice if he could win. He’s very good and we are very happy with him.”
Jean-Claude Rouget’s Vadeni was second to Alpinista in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when beaten half a length.
Christophe Soumillon is the Churchill colt’s regular rider and considers the Ganay to be a remarkably competitive race this season.
“I’m very happy to see him back on the track,” the jockey told Sky Sports Racing. “He worked quite well on Tuesday, we all know the horse isn’t 100 per cent fit and it is the first run of the season. He’s going to have a tough season, for sure, we couldn’t believe the Ganay would be that strong.
“I have been doing this job for 25 years now and I haven’t seen a Ganay with so many Group One horses. It’s like a strong Champion Stakes race or, with less runners, the Arc – it’s a tough race.”