Breeders' Cup International Horse Profile: Rougir

December 30th, 2021

Filly & Mare Turf

A regular competitor on the French three-year-old filly scene, Rougir finally got her nose in front in the Breeders' Cup “Win and You’re In” Prix de l’Opera (G1) on Arc Day. She was part of a banner October for her connections – Le Har as de la Gousserie and trainer Cedric Rossi – along with Sealiway who upset the Champion S. (G1) at Ascot.

If the Opera was a reward for Rougir’s honesty over the season, it’s less persuasive as a Breeders’ Cup pointer for her. To be sure, the Opera is historically a key race for the Filly & Mare Turf. But so far, the Opera winner has not come right back to score again here, although Tarnawa pulled a famous Opera/Turf double last fall. More often, those beaten in Paris rebound (or place) in this race.

Beyond that technical factoid, the sophomore fillies’ division in France has been a muddle. Rougir’s colleagues/sometime rivals (namely Cirona and Harajuku) did not change that assessment in their respective attempts at Belmont Park. The Opera strikes me as more of a perfect storm for Rougir, who capitalized on getting a stiff pace set-up on heavy ground. Not that she’s ground-dependent, but she can handle it while others are inconvenienced.

On the plus side, Rougir is a trier who has won or placed in eight of 13 starts, and when out of the top three, she’s been involved in a few blanket finishes. So she can be relied up on to show up. That attitude, plus a reasonable pace scenario at Del Mar, can go some way.

From the first crop of classy miler Territories (a well-bred son of Invincible Spirit), Rougir is out of the stakes-placed Summer Moon, a descendant of the same family responsible for 1988 Epsom Derby (G1) star Kahyasi. Another distant maternal relative, 2001 St Leger (G1) scorer Milan, was runner-up in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Rougir had a productive juvenile campaign in 2020. The winner of her first two starts in early summer, she stayed on strongly in her Chantilly premiere and surged in the final yards at Saint-Cloud. Her progress hit a road block in the Prix Six Perfections (G3) at Deauville, where she raced closer to the pace and retreated to fifth. Reverting to more patient tactics at Lyon Parilly, Rougir rallied from last to miss narrowly in third versus males. But she excelled that fall, closing to take third at 32-1 in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) on heavy and pouncing as the favorite in the Prix des Reservoirs (G3) at a very soft Deauville.

That neck score in the Reservoirs was her last win until the Opera. Never seeing much daylight when sixth in the Apr.18 Prix de la Grotte (G3), Rougir was a wide-closing eighth in the French 1000 Guineas (G1) behind hard-to-figure longshot Coeursamba and favorite Mother Earth (Mile). She stretched out to about 1 5/16 miles for the next fillies’ classic, the French Oaks (G1), but the 38-1 shot ran evenly in fifth after stalking eventual winner Joan of Arc.

Rougir came much closer in her next three. Dropping back to the Group 3 level in the about 1 1/8-mile Prix Chloe (G3), she appeared slightly outpaced in midstretch but kicked into gear and missed by a head. Third in that three-way finish was Creative Flair, the future third in the Saratoga Oaks (G3) and fourth in the Jockey Club Oaks. Rougir cut back in trip but went up in class for the Aug. 3 Prix Rothschild (G1) at a metric mile, keeping on for a tight-finish fourth at 22-1 and beaten all of a half-length by Mother Earth. Next in the about 1 1/4-mile Prix de la Nonette (G2), she didn’t appear to be making any headway until she flashed home approaching the wire in a near-miss third.

Thus Rougir lined up in the Opera as part of the sophomore brigade that had been “much of a muchness” all year, and accordingly went off at nearly 23-1. But she was the one who handled conditions best on the day. As Audarya hit a brick wall in deep stretch, and Grand Glory struck the front, deep-closing Rougir plowed through the heavy ground to get up by a nose.

Since the Opera represents a higher level of form for a hitherto consistent filly, the main question is if it’s an outlier or a sign of improvement. Pauline Chehboub of Haras de la Gousserie has made the case that Rougir needs pace support to deliver her best. She’ll get that here, but the willing competitor must overcome rivals who will find the scenario congenial as well.