The regal French racecourse of Chantilly will stage its first all-weather meeting this afternoon and Corine Barande-Barbe believes that the new surface could increase French raids on Dubai's lucrative racing programme over the next few years.
Although there are 84 thoroughbreds set to test out competitively the new 1,900-metre Fibresand surface, undoubtedly the main draw will be Barande-Barbe's Cirrus Des Aigles, who is entered in the Dubai World Cup and lines up under Christophe Soumillon against four rivals in the Prix Meydan Hotel.
The race carries a purse of €50,000 (Dh242,637) and is not the only contest on the eight-race card that has formed a relationship with a hotel in the Emirates. Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa sponsors the seventh race on the card, a 1,600-metre contest that features, among six entrants, Don Bosco, a five-year-old chestnut owned by Omar Sharif, the Egyptian actor.
"We have been to training there and the surface is really great," Barande-Barbe said. "I think the track is important for French racing. If you send a horse for a long time in Dubai it changes the rest of the year's programme. The more you keep a horse in one country, the longer you have to give it time to adjust back to its home climate and time zone.
"If you can prepare your horse in your country and just fly in for a few days it's much better."
French trainers are not so starved of prize money like their British counterparts that a trip to Dubai is so important. There were 50 British trainers who entered horses in this year's Dubai World Cup Carnival compared to just nine from France.
That ratio could easily change, however, as 250 of the 3,000 horses housed at France's premier training centre have used the new surface daily. With 155 races scheduled this year, it will help French trainers better adapt their horses to the demands of the Tapeta track at Meydan Racecourse.
The new surface took five months to construct and was built on the inside of the existing turf layout that hosts the French Derby to a backdrop of the iconic Prince's Grand Stables and the 19th Century Chateau de Chantilly.
"There are not so many French people who send horses to Dubai, but the idea will come to them after the next few years," Barande-Barbe said. "It will depend on the results that we have there, but it couldn't be better for everyone here because it is only 10 minutes from our boxes."
If Cirrus Des Aigles makes the line-up to the world's richest race at Meydan March 31 the gelding will be only the fifth French trained runner to do so since Elie Lellouche sent over the mare Aquarelliste in 2003.
What is certain, however, is that the six year old will have a leading chance, having broken the track record at Ascot in England in October when winning the Group 1 Champion Stakes from So You Think, the World Cup favourite, and Green Destiny, another potential World Cup rival.
The race was transferred from Newmarket's straight track as part of Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Qipco Champions Day and Barande-Barbe said: "I used to love that race and when they changed it to Ascot with a turn I thought it was our destiny. He needs to run around a turn. He's always looking everywhere otherwise."
Soumillon has described his mount as a "mascot for France" as the horse has raced not only all over the country but in Hong Kong and Japan also.
It was in the special administrative region in December that Soumillon was trapped until the very last 200 metres when the pair finished fifth in the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin. Since Cirrus Des Aigles returned from the Far East he has grown up considerably, not only physically, but also mentally according to Barande-Barbe, the daughter of two psychoanalysts.
"He likes travelling. He hates when nothing happens. Each time a van for horses comes into the yard he is happy, but when he realises it is not for him he is disappointed. For him it is fun to go racing," the 53 year old said. "The fact that he is a gelding is part of the way he acts - he has nothing else to worry about.
"He is not deterred by hormones and fillies and therefore concentrates on his work. When a horse gets to six years old they just grow stronger and better. He is just concerned with training, working and running.
"After Hong Kong he came back in cracking form so this race will really be his last gallop before Dubai. That's how we look at it now, but of course we will have to see after the race."