Early season classic trials are all about potential and although time analysis has cast doubt over the reliability of the form, the recent Group 3 Prix de la Grotte – Etalon Kengardent may have identified a trio of fillies who will do well at higher levels in France this year.
The one-mile Chantilly contest was won by the favourite, Senga. The 31/1 longshot La Sardane was a length second, and in addition to the winner, both the third and fourth look highly promising.
The previously once-raced Lady Frankel was a half-length behind La Sardane and this half-sister to Lope De Vega was, in turn, a short-neck in front of last season's pattern scorer Toulifaut, with these four finishing seven lengths clear of the fifth.
Senga is trained by Pascal Bary for the Niarchoses' Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd and the mid-March born homebred is one of nine stakes winner for Blame (by Arch), the distant relation of Sadler's Wells (by Northern Dancer) who pipped Zenyatta in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic. He stands at Claiborne Farm.
The filly got off the mark at the second attempt, scoring by two lengths over a mile at Saint-Cloud in early September, and her only subsequent start at two was when finishing a one and three-quarter length fourth to Wuheida in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac over the same trip at Chantilly a month later.
With just four runs to her name so far, Senga should be capable of improvement and she could figure prominently in both the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) and Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks).
She is a half-sister to the seven-furlong stakes winner Bolting (by War Front) and is out of Beta Leo (by A.P. Indy), a winning daughter of Denebola (by Storm Cat).
France's juvenile filly champion of 2003, when taking both the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac and Group 3 Prix de Cabourg, as well as third place in the Group 1 Prix Morny, Denebola represents a famous and influential family and it would be no surprise if any of her descendants were to succeed at the highest level.
The third dam of Senga is 1993's French juvenile filly champion Coup De Genie (by Mr Prospector), a Group 1 Prix de la Salamandre and Group 1 Prix Morny heroine who went on to finish third to Las Meninas and Balanchine in the Group 1 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, beaten by just a short-head and a neck.
Only five of her 13 offspring made it to the track but four were stakes winners, and in addition to Denebola, they were US Grade 3 scorer Snake Mountain (by A.P. Indy), Group 1-placed juvenile Group 3 winner Loving Kindness (by Seattle Slew), and Glia (by A.P. Indy) who won the Listed Prix Imprudence in France before going on to be Grade 2-placed in Kentucky.
Loving Kindness is the dam of a listed race winner, but Glia is the grandam of the top-class Emollient (by Empire Maker) whose wins include the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes, Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes, Grade 1 Ashland Stakes and Grade 1 American Oaks.
Coup De Genie's unraced daughter Moonlight Box (by Nureyev), however, can beat that as her progeny feature the multiple Group 1 stars Bago (by Nashwan) and Maxios (by Monsun).
The former was European champion at two and three and top-class again at four, he was rated 121p, 130 and 127 by Timeform in those three seasons, and he won the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, Group 1 Prix Ganay, Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, and Group 1 Criterium International. Sadly, despite being the grandson of a full-sister to a hugely influential stallion, Bago has disappointed at stud.
His half-brother Maxios represents a completely different sire line, being by the horse responsible for the Group 1-siring stallions Manduro and Shirocco, and he got his top-level wins in the Prix d'Ispahan and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. He stands at Gestut Fahrhof, his first yearlings made up to €240,000 in 2016, and he has the potential to do well in his new career.
Bago's poor record could, in part, be an artefact of the generally disappointing stud performances of Nashwan's (by Blushing Groom) sons and daughters. If that is the case, then the Monsun (by Konigsstuhl) factor could work in Maxios's favour. After all, his grandam's full-brother was the classic-placed juvenile champion Machiavellian (by Mr Prospector) so you would expect him to sire stakes and pattern winners.
Machiavellian's 13 Group 1 stars include leading international classic sire Street Cry, plus Almuwakel, Medicean, Storming Home and Vettori, each of whom have enjoyed success at stud, and the string of Group 1 stars produced from his daughters includes Goldream (by Oasis Dream), Territories (by Invincible Spirit), Gallante (by Montjeu), Move In Time (by Monsieur Bond), Red Rocks (by Galileo), Verxina (by Deep Impact), Victoire Pisa (by Neo Universe) and Group 1 sires Dark Angel (by Acclamation), Shamardal (by Giant's Causeway) and Zoffany (by Dansili).
Senga needs to improve if she is going to win at the highest level, but there is no doubt that she is bred to do so.