The French Winter Meeting at Vincennes is over but elite group racing continues in the world's richest trotting coutry as the UET Masters Series heads south to Cagnes sur Mer, France for the group one Grand Criterium De Vitesse over a mile (1609) for 200,000 euros
Italian-bred horses drew the all important three inside positions on the barrier draw as the final field of 14 was released Friday for Sunday's big race.
Former Italian Derby winner Pascia' Lest, now trained in France byhas the pole position inside another French trained Italian, Marielles, a former heat winner in Italy's biggest race the Lotteria over this distance who is trained by Fabrice Soulouy.
The number three pole will be taken Nesta Effe, which was the only one of the trio to race in the Prix d'Amerique this year although she finished 10th. But Holger Ehlert's son ofis a proven sprinter and was in super form this time last year, winning two group ones in Finland in April, the Prix d'Etain Royal SeinÃ¤joki-Race and the Finlandia-Ajo over a mile, and he is also a runner-up in the final of the Lotteria, Italy's greatest race, also over a mile.
The other two Italians carry good form from the Winter Meeting with Pascia' Lest second in the Group two Prix Jean Le Gonidec in February over 2175m while Marielles was third in prestigious Prix Du Bourbonnais (Gr2) in December. All three are driven by Italian reinsman Andrea Guzzinati (Pascia' Lest), Roberto Andreghetti (Marielles) and(Nesta Effe).
While the three Italians have the inside draws, they also have have to face some of their French vanquishers in their respective races here with Prix Jean Le Gonidec winner Vanika du Ruel drawing the seven hole while Prix du Bourbonnais winner Triode de Felliere, possibly the most improved horse in France over the Winter Meeting, drawing pole four.
's Vanika du Ruel was the best horse of her generation at two and three and has a best time over the sprint distance at Vincennes of 1.11.6 (1.55.1MR) when winning the group one Prix de l'Etoile.
And Jean Paul Marmion's Triode de Felliere warmed up for this race with a close third in the Prix de Plateau de Gravelle, a Vincennes sprint over 2100m in which he recorded a slick 1.11.3 (1.54.4).
But the biggest French danger comes from the horse drawn fifth, Univers de Pan who was beaten by the narrowest of margins in the sprint round of the French Triple Crown,the Grand Prix de France.
's son of Kenya du Pont was fifth last start off a 25m handicap in the Prix de Selection, but recorded a slick 1.11.1 (1.54.1MR) for the journey and from the five hole will prove very tough to beat.
Sweden's best chance Amaru Boko is the only Scandinavian-based entrant in the rich sprint, but the recent addition to's stable is in outstanding form with four wins on the trot since coming to the Bergsaker barn.
The son ofhas a fastest time of 1.10.3 (1.53.1MR) but has to start off the second line.
GRAND CRITERIUM DE VITESSE
Cagnes sur Mer, France
09/03/14 UET Masters Series Group 1 Int 1609m 4-10 200 000e
1 Pascia' Lest (5h- Superiors Sun) Dr: Andrea Guzzinati Tr: 1609
2 Marielles (8m Kick Tail - Egida Play) Dr: Roberto Andreghetti Tr:1609
3 Nesta Effe (7h- Etna Sec) Dr: Tr: Holger Ehlert 1609
4 Triode de Felliere (7m Derby du Gite - Linea de Vandel) Dr: Anthony Barrier Tr: Jean Paul Marmion 1609
5 Univers de Pan (6h Kenya du Pont - Gypsilore) Dr:Tr: 1609
6 Quoumba de Guez (10m Urfist des Pres - Vanina de Mareuil) Dr:Tr: 1609
7 Vanika du Ruel (5m- Jacarandine) Dr: Tr: 1609
8 Quinoa du Gers (10h- Targa du Chalange) Dr: Tr: 1609
9 Olona Ok (6m- Erreuno Ok) Dr: Tr: Domenico Zanca 1609
10 Aisle Stand (7m- Twisterella) Dr: Jos Verbeeck Tr: Ronny Kuiper 1609
11 Twist des Caillons (7h Jam Pridem - Heyra des Caillons) Dr:Tr: Hubert Hardy 1609
12 Amour d'Occagnes (7h- Naomi November) Dr: Tr: Vincent Martens 1609
13 Amaru Boko (7h- Sue Boko) Dr: Tr: 1609
14 Unabella Perrine (6m- Minnie Perrine) Dr: Tr: Jean Francois Mary 1609
by David Sanders, for Harnesslink.com