Aigles aims for Deauville glory
Cirrus Des Aigles aims to return to winning ways in the Group Two Lucien Barriere Grand Prix de Deauville on Sunday.
The three-times Group One winner started the season as the world's highest-rated racehorse after beating all bar Frankel in last October's Champion Stakes, but little has gone right for Corine Barande-Barbe's stable star since.
He was a well-beaten fifth on his belated return in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, could only finish fourth when a hot favourite for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and was then beaten at odds-on in a Deauville Group Three.
He returns to a mile and a half this weekend, with Ascot's QIPCO Champion Stakes on October 19, which he won in 2011, a race Barande-Barbe has suggested on numerous occasions is his main priority this year.
"He is very well which is why he is running again so soon," said Barande-Barbe.
"He came back in good form, he was just a little outpaced the last day as it turned into a sprint.
"He needs lot of racing to reach his level these days but I think he is still as good as he was.
"It looks like a little Group One and it will be interesting to see how the three-year-olds get on against the older horses.
"He needs competition, and we are still thinking of the Champion Stakes."
Owner Henry Ponsonby is looking forward to taking on Cirrus Des Aigles with the Lady Cecil-trained First Mohican.
A winner of a York handicap on his penultimate start, the five-year-old was last seen finishing a close third at this track in the Prix De Reux.
Ponsonby said: "If the Cirrus Des Aigles of last year turns up, he'll be very difficult to beat, but he has been running well below that form so far this season.
"Our horse is in very good form and I believe the ground is going to be quite testing, which will definitely be in our favour.
"My biggest worry wouldn't actually be Cirrus Des Aigles, it would be that there might not be any pace in the race.
"We were very happy with his last run when, because there was no pace, he had to make his own running. Unfortunately I'm not Khalid Abdullah and I don't have a pacemaker to put in there!"
Cirrus Des Aigles and First Mohican feature in a field of 11 runners, with Nicolas Clement's Now We Can a fascinating runner having won his last five starts.
Penglai Pavilion for the all-conquering Andre Fabre stable is another player.
William Knight's Fire Ship and the George Baker-trained Belgian Bill cross the Channel to compete in the Group Three Prix Quincey on the same card.
Knight is keeping his fingers crossed for testing conditions for Fire Ship.
"He produced a good performance to win a Listed race at Pontefract and than ran really well to finish fifth in the big mile handicap at Glorious Goodwood," said the trainer.
"I'm been pleased with him since and hopefully the forecast rain arrives at Deauville, as the softer the ground the better for him.
"It's a competitive Group Three, but if he gets his conditions, I think he's capable of running very well."
There is also British interest in the Group Three Prix De Meautry, with Peter Makin's Morache Music joined by Place In My Heart from Clive Cox's yard.
Cox won the six-furlong contest 12 months ago with Jimmy Styles.
He said: "Place In My Heart is a Listed winner and Group Three placed and I'm happy she's in good shape since her last run.
"I think she's best when she's fresh and she's in good form, so we'll see what happens.
"Hopefully they don't get too much rain. If the ground went very soft that would be a bit of a concern."