American Peter Bradley's `Magical' French Classic Victory With Metropolitan

Bradley (second from left) with team Metropolitan | Sccop-Dyga

Anyone who knows Pete Bradley even a little bit knows that he's a devoted Francophile. You almost can't travel in France without running into Pete somewhere or another. Arc de Triomphe? `Hey, Pete.' December sale? `Hi again, Pete!' Dinner at a friend's house in rural Normandy? `Seriously, Pete?'

So it's only fitting that the most recent American owner to win a French Classic is one who would appreciate it so much.

When Metropolitan (Fr) (Zarak {Fr}) exploded up the rail in the final stages of Sunday's G1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp, it was the culmination of years of study and interest in the French racing product, said Bradley, who regularly watches racing on the France-Galop website.

Metropolitan's debut Aug. 12 at Deauville caught Bradley's eye.

“He ran a big race, and I called and talked to a friend over there about him,” recalled Bradley from the Fasig-Tipton Timonium Sale this week. “I always go over form with him on horses because he's a really good judge. And he said, `the horse was amazing.'”

Bradley reached out to Alessandro Marconi, who represents the Scuderia Scolari, owned by Hrand Aladjian and his wife, Monique. “I got in touch with Mario Barrati, and with Alessandro Marconi, made an offer which they thought was going to be acceptable for half of the horse. And then, all of a sudden, the Qataris and everybody else started making significantly larger offers. However, everybody else wanted the whole horse. And I told them I wanted 60 percent but I'd take a little bit less, which is what we settled on. And because he didn't want to sell the whole horse, I don't want to say we got a discount, but he could have made more if he wanted to sell one hundred percent of the horse. And he decided he wanted to stay in, which was obviously the smart thing to do.”

Bradley didn't get the chance to go see Metropolitan before he committed, but from the notes he got and the videos he watched, “he is gorgeous,” he said. “He's an A physical. I mean, he's absolutely beautiful. So I actually didn't see him until I went over for the October sale last year and for the Arc. He ran in his second race, and won exceptionally well. And the idea was always, at least in Mario's mind, to put him away for the winter. He wasn't going to make the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, and other potential races didn't value-add. The horse needed a little time to grow up. And we gave it to him.”

Metropolitan made his 2024 debut in April's G3 Fontainebleau at the mile distance at Longchamp, finishing fifth, beaten two-and-a-quarter lengths. His team said they thought he needed the work, and would improve off the race.

While the fillies' Classic, the Pouliches, went off without a hitch, after the horses for the Poulains were in the paddock, the skies opened up with thunderstorms and hail.

Alexis Pouchin celebrates his Poule d'Essai win | Scoop-Dyga

“And then the deluge comes,” said Bradley. “I guess their radar isn't that good over there because they already had the horses in the central paddock in an already-starting downpour. And then the monsoon hit, and they decided at that point to turn them around and bring them back inside. Metropolitan was so chill. He gets back to his stall, they take the saddle off. And by this time, horses usually understand there's a race going on. They're getting pretty hyped. He stuck his head down, halfway closed his eyes, and Mario was rubbing on his neck, and he was liking the attention.”

Barrati also took a minute to give jockey Alexis Pouchin instructions.

“Mario is very good about communicating,” said Bradley. “Before the race, he said that he had spoken with Alexis, and he said, `I told Alexis to get the horse out of the gate and put him into the race immediately.' He said, `I want him lying within a couple of lengths of the leader, and he should settle.'”

And that's exactly what Pouchin did. Breaking on top, he settled the horse into third on the rail and when they entered the open stretch, he made his move. “I was a little worried he had moved too early,” said Bradley. “He certainly had enough horse and got to the lead, but I think Metropolitan thought the race was almost over, and the other horses came to him. He took a hold of the bit, dug in, and he was much the best. And as I said before the race, `We know we have a very talented horse, and this will tell us if we have an exceptional horse.' He showed he is exceptional.”

Bradley, who has been attending big races in France for over 30 years now, said he knew what the experience was like from the outside looking in. “But when you have a horse there yourself?” he said. “It's just magical. France Galop is exceptionally good to you in helping you with any accommodations you need–boxes and lunches, whatever. They make sure things are taken care of. They've got a hospitality and owners concierge which is I think one of the best in the world.”

Metropolitan's win was hardly Bradley's first taste of success in France. The owner of La Parisienne (Zarak {Fr}), he saw her finish second in the G1 Prix Diane and third in the Prix Vermeille in 2022-another successful purchase by Zarak. But his first Classic? That was a whole other story.

“The entire racing community over there is so appreciative of a winner,” said Bradley, who said that the hugs and high fives followed him all the way to the winner's circle. “The celebration isn't just for the winners. It seemed to me that everyone celebrated our victory.”

Bradley said that a decision would be made in the next week as to the horse's next start, with the G1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) June 2 at Chantilly and the G1 St. James's Palace at Royal Ascot June 18 among the options, and that the decision would be left to his trainer.

For Bradley, the success was long due and well-earned.

“I've always bought horses out of France, and I've been lucky enough to buy some really nice ones,” he said, like dual champion Windsharp and Grade I winner Desert Blanc. “Michel Zerolo became a very good friend. Michel basically taught me how to buy European racehorses. Since then, It has been one of my favorite things to do in my business of being a `talent scout,' as I call myself, and not a bloodstock agent. And it's one of the most rewarding things I do, and I hope I continue to find more horses like him.”

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