If the perfect race could be designed for Gordon Lord Byron it might just be Sunday's Prix de la Foret at Longchamp and Irish flat racing's fairy-tale performer is on track to make a third appearance in the Group One renewal on Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day.
Tom Hogan’s stable stalwart, famously bought for just €2,000, broke his Group One duck in the 2012 Foret and was runner up in the race last year to Moonlight Cloud.
The Foret is Europe’s sole top-flight Group One contest over seven furlongs and although Gordon Lord Byron landed last year’s Haydock Sprint Cup over six and has operated with honour at a mile throughout the world, Hogan reckons seven is perfect.
"Seven furlongs is probably his optimum distance. When he won in Australia [George Ryder Stakes] it was 7½," said the veteran Co Tipperary trainer.
“He was a bit unlucky in the Foret last year. They went a bit too quick in the early part and he came up against a very good one in Moonlight Cloud. It’s . . . hard to imagine there will be a Moonlight Cloud in there,” he added.
It’s more than four years since Gordon Lord Byron’s inauspicious racing debut at Roscommon in which he was pulled up. But Hogan planned to give him a final racecourse gallop at his old stomping ground yesterday ahead of making another entry into his extensive international travel log.
"I'm told the ground is good at Longchamp . . . So it should be perfect conditions," said Hogan who added that Wayne Lordan will maintain his partnership with the six-year-old.
Lordan has ridden
the Gelding on his last two starts, when runner-up in the Haydock Sprint Cup to G-Force and third to Bow Creek over a mile at Leopardstown on Champions Weekend.
Just a handful of horses have managed to twice win the Foret, the last of them being Moorestyle in 1980-81.
More Irish interest in the renewal is likely to come from Ansgar with connections of the Sabrina Harty-trained runner contemplating supplementing the horse into Sunday’s race.
Ansgar followed up a Supreme Stakes win at Goodwood with a Group Two victory in the Park Stakes on Doncaster Leger day over seven furlongs.
“There’s rain coming towards the weekend in Ireland so he won’t be going to Tipperary on Sunday [Concorde Stakes] I don’t think,” said Harty. “We’re looking at supplementing him for the Foret as it looks like it’s going to be good ground in France.”
The Matron Stakes heroine Fiesolana brings even more Irish interest to the Foret and Willie McCreery’s mare will get a chance for revenge against Garswood who beat her in the Maurine du Gheest at Deauville earlier this year.
Garswood was third in the 2013 Foret and will be ridden by local jockey Gerald Mosse and his trainer Richard Fahey said: "They [the owners] were keen for him to keep the ride. He's a good jockey and we'd be happy with that."