Rouget eyes Group 1 targets as smart pair banish the virus blues

Taareef and Zelzal dominated the closing stages of the Group 3 Prix Bertrand du Breuil at Chantilly on Sunday to give Jean-Claude Rouget a one-two in the race and some very positive signs for the future. 

Both colts are housed in the barn struck by a deadly virus at the beginning of April and are the first of Rouget's best horses to have run following the hold up.

Taareef and Ioritz Mendizabal got a great toe into the race from the aggressively ridden Black Max, while Gregory Benoist guided Zelzal into second after having sat well off the pace. 

While some punters may not have been delighted with Benoist's restraint, Rouget believed both Taareef and Zelzal will have benefitted from not being given a hard race.

'It doesn't matter Zelzal was beaten'

"That was a very nice comeback at this level for two horses with a lot of class," said Rouget.

"The way the race played out Ioritz probably got a better trip than the other one. If we could have been sure of the leader going off like that we might have had Zelzal ridden a bit closer to the pace, and it would have been a good match between the pair of them.

"But they might have ended up both having a harder race. To me it doesn't matter Zelzal was beaten today."

Rouget said he had made no firm plans for the pair given they were pathfinders for the virus-affected barn, but Al Shaqab's Zelzal has an entry in the Qatar Sussex Stakes, while both are likely to be entered for the Jacques le Marois. 

Diane-winning trainer Pascal Bary began what became a dream day when Khalid Abdullah's homebred Ice Breeze got the better of Shakeel in the Group 2 Prix Hocquart, setting up a trip to the Juddmonte-sponsored Grand Prix de Paris on July 14.