You don’t need shorter daylight hours, cooler mornings and leaves changing colour to tell you that the summer is coming to an end. It’s far easier than that in my household as a simple look at the French Racing calendar will tell me what time of year it is. The first meeting of the autumn season at Auteuil takes place this Friday and that means that the summer has now begun to pass. We have an 8-race card on Friday which gets underway in Paris at 2:42pm (UK Time). Having looked through the card we have a mix of horses who have taken a summer break along with the track and those who have been on the go through the hotter months at Dieppe and Clairefontaine. On Wednesday evening, the going was described as Very Soft, scoring a 4,0 on the penetrometer which I would consider “Soft, Good to Soft in places” if the measurement was being given by a clerk of the course in the UK. I think that it would be fair to say that almost every horse running on this card has bigger targets ahead in the 11-week autumn season that is to come, but there were 2 horses who stood out for me when I looked through the entries and if I can get a reasonable price, they will hopefully get the new season off to a winning start.
R6 – Prix World Citizen – 5YO+ Handicap Chase over 4,400m.
Although he hasn’t been seen since 6th May, I have had Super Gino in my notes as a horse for next time since that day and I am keen to side with him here despite the absence. He was a winner over hurdles here in 2021 and has won 3 of his 7 starts for Gab Leenders, including a win over fences at Pau in January. The form book will say that he fell on his latest start, but that doesn’t accurately sum up what was a career best performance as he approached the last in front and would have either won or finished a close second in that Class 1 contest if he hadn’t crumpled on landing over the last. The winner, Ho La La Forez went on to finish 4th in the Grade 2 Prix des Drags in June, whilst the 4th placed Losange Vert won on his next start to boost the form. Super Gino remains unexposed after just a handful of starts over fences and given the nature of his fall it is perhaps not surprising that he has been given some time to recover. He returns on a mark of 60, which looks very workable on the balance of his overall profile, and he could easily prove to be most well-handicapped horse in this field if he is ready to go after the summer break.
There are some dangers in here, particularly the pair of 5-year-olds at the head of the weights, Marechal Desjy and You’re the Boss. Hugo Merienne and Sam Sutton did very well with the former to land a hat-trick of wins in the Spring and he made a very pleasing comeback when 4th over hurdles at Clairefontaine last month after a 3-month break. On a form line through Losange Vert, who beat him soundly in May, he looks held by Super Gino on these terms, but it should be noted that he was probably over the top by then after a series of relatively quick turn arounds and he may still prove better than this grade now that he has had a rest. You’re the Boss has spent most of his career running in Listed and Graded company over hurdles, including a 5th placed finish in the Grade 1 Prix Alain du Breil in 2022. He had a “pipe opening” run over hurdles at Nantes in June before finishing 2nd over fences at Clairefontaine 3-weeks ago and could still go back into pattern company after this run. If he can match his hurdles form, which includes a 2-length win over Ine Anjou in March 2022, then he could be very well treated on his current mark, but I have a feeling that the Clairefontaine race was a serious target and despite having the run of the race in front, he wasn’t able to last home, and this looks to be a deeper contest on paper.
There are risks attached with this selection. The fall last time and the break since could mean that Super Gino will be given a quiet ride with a view to building his confidence, but I still want to take the chance. He looks very well treated on his current mark and if he had landed safely over the last in May, he would now be rated 3 to 5-kilos higher and with that much in hand, I am confident enough to be with him until he takes advantage.
R7 – Prix De Gien – 3YO Claiming Hurdle over 3,000m.
I wouldn’t normally dip into Claiming company, but I have watched both races that Ecureuil Borget has run so far, and I really think he is much better than this level and ought to prove it on Friday evening. A son of Muhtathir, he doesn’t have a particularly outstanding page, but he has shown enough in a pair of hurdles runs at Clairefontaine and Rochefort to suggest that he will be the highest rated of these by the end of 2023. His most recent start when he finished 4th in a Class 4 contest at Rochefort reads very well, as both the winner and 2nd have won next time, whilst the 3rd went on to hit the frame in a Clairefontaine handicap on a mark of 58 last week. Ecureuil Borget made the running on what was relatively quick ground and was still in front as they turned for home, although he probably paid for those exertions as he tired in the closing stages to finish 4th, beaten just over 6-lengths.
This was still a promising performance, and it should be noted that he helped set a strong gallop, producing the fastest final circuit time of the 3 hurdles races on the card and this represents a significant drop in grade. If we take the form line with the 3rd placed Blissimo, who he was conceding 2-kilos to, then he could run to a mark of at least 60 and on these terms that may well be enough to win this race.
His main danger would look to be the Mathieu Pitart trained To Go, who has an official rating of 60 after 6 starts over hurdles. His rating would look to be based on a 2-length defeat behind Drole des Verts at Aix-les-Bains in June, but he may well have been flattered by the slow early pace and a prominent ride on that day. His overall profile, including a fair effort on his latest start at Dieppe in August when he finished 4th, would suggest that he is going to struggle to match Ecureuil Borget, especially as he has 5-kilos to concede thanks to Medy Duchene’s useful claim. There were 5 hurdles races on this card last year and 4 of the 5 winners raced in the first 3, so a prominent ride is going to be essential, especially over this shorter trip, but that seems likely if connections decide to repeat the Rochefort tactics. On decent ground, he should have enough speed to keep himself in contention into the closing stages and may well improve sufficiently to outclass his rivals on these terms.
I would also like to highlight the Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm runner, Kaiser de Sivola. I don’t think he is likely to win this race, but he has caught my eye for the future as everything in his pedigree would suggest that he will improve with time, experience and a step up in trip. He was very raw in a couple of starts at Compiegne in the Spring, looking cautious at his obstacles and outpaced in the closing stages, but that is to be expected given his family have largely stayed 3-miles or even further. He is also worth forgiving his latest effort when he finished 9th on his return from a break at Dieppe in August, as he almost ran out when dodging a hedge on the inside in the opening mile and Hugh Nugent did very well to keep the partnership intact. That seemed to badly affect his confidence and he was never competitive after the incident, so it is best to put a line through it as a piece of form. He may not have the speed to win at this stage of his career, but in time he may develop into a well-handicapped prospect when he goes over fences and over further.