Petit Fils will be the latest French import for West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Christophe Clement, who has mined his connections back home in France to identify this 4-year-old gelding as a stakes prospect for the long-distance turf division in America.
Petit Fils already owns a Graded stakes victory, having captured the Gr. 3 Prix d'Hedouville going a mile and a half at Longchamp in Paris this May. With his ratings back home--a 116 Timeform and 110 with both Racing Post and the official French handicapper, his ceiling could be significantly higher in the U.S., where purses have never been higher for turf horses but the talent pool has not really grown to match the opportunities since so many horses in the U.S. are bred for the dirt. Europe continues to be a proven pipeline and France has been right in the middle of that, producing the likes of Sistercharlie, who is well on her way to a second straight American title as champion turf female.
West Point and Clement have gotten in on the fun with Chipolata, who is Grade 1-placed in the U.S, having finished third in the $1-million Belmont Oaks in her stateside debut, and went on to win an $80,000 race this spring in New York.
Petit Fils already owns six wins. He likes to go to the front and play "catch me," particularly at Longchamp, which has sweeping turns and a long stretch that resemble the terrain at Belmont Park. In several ways he is a close comparison to Clement's previous French discovery, Blacktype, who won back-to-back editions of the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Stakes in New York in 2017 and '18. Like Blacktype, Petit Fils was trained in France by Jean-Pierre Gauvin and allowed to develop at his own pace.
When Petit Fils broke through for a high-level allowance win on April 7 and followed that up on May 5 by becoming a stakes winner in the Prix d'Hedouville, Gauvin noted that the bay gelding was still growing and just settling into a style as a frontrunner. Blacktype carried a 101 Timeform rating with him to the U.S. and improved to 116 with Clement. Petit Fils will be arriving at 116.
"I watch all the Group races in France and so I know pretty much what's going on with the stakes horses there," Clement said. "He belonged to someone I know and I tried to buy him all year long because I thought he would be an ideal horse to bring over. With the purse structure over here, there's an enormous amount of money available for a good stakes horse on the turf, and on form ... we don't have to make him better. He is already a proven good horse. Even if we just keep him as good as he is now, he should be competitive in all these Graded stakes here in America going long on the grass. You only have to win of these major races for it to be worth it. Obviously we want to do more than that.
"It's been a few years since I've had a top horse going a mile and a half on the turf. I love the division. I've been very lucky in the division. I've probably won every big race in the division other than the Breeders' Cup, which I've placed in a few times. I hope he can become another Twilight Eclipse."
That would certainly be a welcome case of deja vu: Twilight Eclipse was a Grade 1 winner and ultra-durable gelding for West Point earlier this decade, earning more than $2-million.
Petit Fils is only being sold at this time because he did not develop into a viable candidate for Australia's $6-million Melbourne Cup, the most prestigious race in the world for true stayers (2 miles or farther). Petit Fils tested those waters in his most recent start on August 8, failing to see out 15 1/2 furlongs in the Group 3 Prix de Barbeville. In the U.S., 11 and 12 furlongs will be right in his wheelhouse, with the Grade 3 Red Smith Stakes (purse $200,000) likely to be his first big target, run at a mile and three-eighths on November 23 at Aqueduct.
Petit Fils, “Grandson” in French, represents a potent female family for owner-breeder Mathieu Offenstandt. The second dam of Petit Fils is a full sister to Top Shape, who was a Graded stakes winner in France and the U.S. Offenstandt also campaigned the sire, Makfi, who invaded England to score a classic victory in the Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket.
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