King Gold lunged late to deny British raiders Spycatcher and Saint Lawrence top-level success in a thrilling renewal of the Arc Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville.
A field of 10 sprinters went to post for the Group One contest and the market was dominated by the raiding party, with the Karl Burke-trained Spycatcher the narrow favourite to supplement his course victory of four weeks ago.
Burke had a major second string to his bow in Cold Case, Tim Easterby also sent Art Power from Yorkshire following his latest win at the Curragh a fortnight ago and the Archie Watson-trained Saint Lawrence was out to supplement Royal Ascot success in the Wokingham Stakes.
In the end, though, the prize stayed at home.
Art Power soon adopted his customary pacesetting role in the hands of David Allan, but was a spent force entering the final furlong, at which stage Spycatcher looked likely to oblige in the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing colours after taking over the lead.
But having settled his mount out the back for much of the six-and-a-half-furlong journey, Stephane Pasquier produced Nicolas Caullery-trained grey King Gold with a late challenge and he held on to deny Spycatcher in the shadow of the post by a short head.
Saint Lawrence was just a neck further behind in third and may well have been even closer had he enjoyed a clearer passage.
Highclere’s managing director, Harry Herbert, said of Spycatcher: “Maxime (Guyon) said he was in front just before the line and after the line.
“He’s run an absolutely fantastic race. It’s extraordinary what Karl and his team have done. The vet said last year we should retire him and he’s not only come back but he’s come back to within a fraction of winning a Group One.
“It’s disappointing not to win, but at the same time we’re so thankful he’s doing what he’s doing, and on the right ground and the right conditions he’s pretty special.”
Bookmaker reaction to Spycatcher’s run was positive with the Sprint Cup at Haydock in mind, Coral cutting him to 10-1 from 16-1.
Herbert added: “We’re all pretty competitive so getting beaten in a Group One by a short head is agony right now – but he’s absolutely lethal when ground conditions are as easy as they are here and hopefully next time the nod goes our way.”
Caullery, saddling his first Group One winner, told Sky Sports Racing: “It’s a beautiful moment – it’s unbelievable. The owner is also the breeder and it’s a magic day.
“He started (the year) in Dubai and ran well in Dubai. When he came back to France he won a handicap and a Group Three and now a Group One, it’s fabulous.
“He can do a lot of things, six or seven furlongs. He’s a strong horse with a great mind. Life is too short, you have to enjoy every day and we do.”