Pouliches Glory For Lope De Vega's Rouhiya

Rouhiya (centre) Scoop Dyga


Before the storm, the finish to Sunday's G1 Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches had a true 80s throwback feel to it, with the world-famous Aga Khan and Sangster silks involved at the death of the ParisLongchamp Classic. When the photo was taken, it was the former's distinguished livery that was in front sported by the 31-1 outsider Rouhiya (Fr) (Lope De Vega {Ire}–Rondonia {Ire}, by Raven's Pass), with the 45-1 shot Kathmandu (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}) failing by a head to bring the Sangster colours back into the winner's spot after one of Europe's monuments. Entering this with no previous black-type experience, the homebred was also at the considerable disadvantage of having to navigate stall 10 but duly overcame all to continue the fine form of the Francis-Henri Graffard stable in 2024.

Sent forward by Maxime Guyon along with Godolphin's Romantic Style (Ire) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}), the winner who had been third in the course-and-distance Prix du Louvre conditions event last month was quickly able to retain energy anchored behind the leading trio throughout the all-important early stages. Needing to work to get to the long-time leader and fellow outsider Kathmandu in the closing stages, she proved game and genuine as she cut down that rival in the shade of the post for a fifth Pouliches for her owner-breeder. There was just a neck separating Kathmandu and Vespertilio (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}), with Romantic Style probably paying for her early efforts in fourth, another short neck away. The 23-10 favourite Louise Procter (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) was disappointing, even allowing for having a troubled passage, and trailed in 13th.

“Francis-Henri Graffard's gut feeling last year was that she was a Poule filly and only this week, we asked ourselves the question, should we run in the Poule d'Essai on Sunday or head to the [Listed] Prix des Lilas at Chantilly on Saturday?” Princess Zahra Aga Khan admitted after the race. “We reasoned in terms of the future and in terms of the filly as a breeding prospect, so we opted for the Poule d'Essai. For a breeder to produce a filly like her is extraordinary. It's the reward of decades of work.”

Speaking before Zarak's son Metropolitan (Fr) captured the Poulains, Princess Zahra added, “Our breeding operation is also experiencing a great moment with the successes of our stallions such as Zarak and Siyouni. Their success is no coincidence, as it's a long-term project and their breeding pages have a lot going for them. It's a game of intellectual chess with nature as my father likes to say. In our quest, we are helped by the fact that we don't need to follow a trend.”

Rouhiya, who started her career with a third placing over seven furlongs at Saint-Cloud in October before winning at this trip over 6 1/2 furlongs on Deauville's Polytrack in November, had been third to the re-opposing Rock'n Swing (GB) (Camelot {GB}) and subsequent winner Luiza Bere (Fr) (Territories {Ire}) in the Prix du Louvre on her 3-year-old bow. While that winner was only seventh here, it was Rouhiya who made the biggest step forward to become Graffard's first Classic winner for the operation since taking over Alain de Royer-Dupre's stable.

“We had a perfect run despite a bad draw,” he said. “I had told her jockey that she has a sharp turn of foot, but that her burst isn't a lasting one so he waited as long as possible before delivering his challenge. She had made a lot of progress since her seasonal debut and she had worked beautifully earlier this week, showing that she had come on a lot from her first run so we said 'why not take a chance'. These races are so difficult to win, but you can't if you don't run and it's great for everyone involved.”

Sadly for Brian Meehan, Kathmandu was emulating the narrow defeat of the stable's Isaac Shelby (GB) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) in the 2023 Poulains. “It's tough, but she has run such an incredible race,” he said. “All credit to the team at home and here with her, the owners Ed Babbington and Sam Sangster let me put her in the Guineas in the Spring and she's a wonderful filly and I thought Sean [Levey] gave her an outstanding ride. It's heart-breaking and it's about the seventh Classic-placed horse I've had now–it's becoming annoying.”

“She's run beautifully, she's a stunning filly and there's so much to love about her, we're going to have a great time with her for sure,” he added. “She definitely gets a mile, but she may have been on the limit of her stamina here today–and Sean felt that–so we will see. Maybe the [G3] Jersey Stakes at Ascot, but we will see.”

Kieran Lalor, racing manager to Al Shira'aa Farms, said of Vespertilio, “Willie [McCreery] has done a great job in getting her to the top today. Perhaps her draw didn't help and she was a bit tense initially, but then she settled well. She's put her best foot forward, which really bodes well for the rest of the season, especially as she has handled the journey to France very well. We had our doubts about her ability to stay a mile, but those doubts have been dispelled. We're going to see how she recovers from the race before discussing future plans. She's entered in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Her owner would love to run at Royal Ascot.”

Charlie Appleby was inclined to think that the surface had dried too much for Romantic Style and said, “I'm delighted. There were two major questions going into race; the draw and the fast ground. She was coming off a very good effort on heavy ground at Deauville in the Prix Imprudence and, as a two-year-old, her best performances were on soft ground. William [Buick] thought she didn't let herself down as she usually does on this fast ground. As far as distance is concerned, she saw out the trip. We'll be thinking about what to do next–certainly keeping the ground in mind–but the [G1] Prix Jean Prat over 1400 metres is a possibility.”

Pedigree Notes
Rouhiya, who was conquering this race 40 years after Masarika (GB) opened the scoring for her owner-breeder, is the 20th top-level winner for her sire and the second foal out of the Listed Grand Prix de Fontainebleau-placed Rondonia. She is one of two black-type performers produced by the listed scorer Raydiya (Ire) (Marju {Ire}) alongside the G2 Debutante S. winner Raydara (Ire) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}), who is in turn the dam of the Listed Prix Isonomy winner and G3 Prix de Fontainebleau-placed Rajapour (Ire) (Almanzor {Fr}) and the G3 Derrinstown Stud Fillies S.-placed Ridenza (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}). Also connected to the G1 Coronation Cup third Roseburg (Ire) (Tamayuz {GB}), Rondonia has an unnamed 2-year-old filly by Camelot (GB) and a yearling filly by Sea The Stars's son Sea The Moon (Ger) to follow.


Sunday, ParisLongchamp, France
EMIRATES POULE D'ESSAI DES POULICHES-G1, €550,000, ParisLongchamp, 5-12, 3yo, f, 8fT, 1:35.99, gd.
1–ROUHIYA (FR), 126, f, 3, by Lope De Vega (Ire)
     1st Dam: Rondonia (Ire) (SP-Fr), by Raven's Pass
     2nd Dam: Raydiya (Ire), by Marju (Ire)
     3rd Dam: Raydaniya (Ire), by In The Wings (GB)
1ST BLACK-TYPE WIN; 1ST GROUP WIN; 1ST GROUP 1 WIN. O-H H The Aga Khan; B-H H The Aga Khan's Studs SC (FR); T-Francis-Henri Graffard; J-Maxime Guyon. €314,270. Lifetime Record: 4-2-0-2, €339,020. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree, or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Kathmandu (Ire), 126, f, 3, Showcasing (GB)–Alegra (GB), by Galileo (Ire). 1ST GROUP 1 BLACK TYPE. (50,000gns 2yo '23 TATJUL). O-Sangster & Babington; B-Sir Robert Ogden (IRE); T-Brian Meehan. €125,730.
3–Vespertilio (Fr), 126, f, 3, Night Of Thunder (Ire)–Prudente (Fr), by Dansili (GB). 1ST GROUP 1 BLACK TYPE. (€320,000 Ylg '22 ARAUG). O-Al Shira'aa Farms; B-Ecurie des Monceaux & Skymarc Farm Inc (FR); T-Willie McCreery. €62,865.
Margins: HD, NK, SNK. Odds: 30.70, 45.00, 17.00.
Also Ran: Romantic Style (Ire), See You Around (Ire), Sparkling Plenty (Fr), Rock'n Swing (GB), Content (Ire), Rose Bloom (Ire), Minoushka (GB), Folgaria (Ire), Chic Colombine (Fr), Louise Procter (Fr), Opera Mundi (Ire), Tulipa Chope (Fr). Video, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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