Avenir Certain wins Oaks to join greats
Belgian jockey Gregory Benoist (L) riding 'Avenir Certain' crosses the finish line to win the 165th Prix de Diane, a 2100-metre flat horse race open to three-year-old thoroughbred fillies, on June 15, 2014 in Chantilly, northern Paris - by Philippe Dupeyrat
Given an excellent ride by Gregory Benoist Avenir Certain produced a blistering turn of foot to sweep past the leaders in the finishing straight and prevail at odds of 3/1 to give trainer Jean-Claude Rouget his third win in the last six renewals.
The 33/1 outsider Amour Papa, only trainer Jean-Yves Artu's second runner in the race, finished a length in arrears in second under Pierre-Charles Boudot while Xcellence, trained by former champion national hunt handler Francois Doumen, had to settle for third just like she had to in the Guineas.
Favourite Shamkala, bidding to give trainer Alain de Royer Dupre his seventh win in the race and owner the Aga Khan his eighth, finished a disappointing fourth while English 1000 Guineas champion Miss France had problems in getting out to deliver her challenge and finished unplaced.
Rouget, whose training base is in the relatively unfashionable south west of France, was visibly moved by the victory and he said that he saw a resemblance between his champion and that of Zarkava, who won the race in 2008 and went on to land Europe's most prestigious flat race the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe later that year.
However, despite her earning a quote of 14/1 for the Arc, Rouget was not certain he would run her in it.
"People don't realise how hard it is to get the horse right on the day and to prepare them for these big occasions," said 61-year-old Rouget.
"We thought she was a bit special but it was a high-class field, but Gregory rode her perfectly.
"I had only given him one bit of advice and that was not to panic, and he didn't.
"She made me think a little bit of Zarkava. Avenir Certain won the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches in soft ground and she won this on good ground, so she is quite straightforward. I don't really want to make a decision about her autumn program yet.
"Naturally, every trainer thinks about the Arc but I'm not sure it is the right race for her. I think she might stay, but, as I said, we shall see how things go. However, right now she is going to have a well-deserved break."