Top quality action at Auteuil this Friday, with a 7 race card and the first Graded race of the autumn season. Racing gets underway at 11:00am Uk time with a chase for the 4 and 5-year-olds. It looks a very trappy contest on paper, so it’s not a race I would be overly keen to bet in. However, I am keen to see how Kaskad Coco performs as he completed a hat-trick over hurdles in the spring and looks a very exciting prospect, with James Reveley retaining the ride.
If the first race is competitive, the second is impossible to workout. The Prix Finot is one of the key Juvenile hurdle races of the autumn season, the likes of Saphir Du Rheu and Irish Saint have begun their careers in this race, so it’s certainly a race to watch. However, with 16 mostly unexposed 3-year-olds going to most it’s not a race I could make a confident selection in. With those races out of the way we come to the first of 3 pattern races on the card, with the Listed Prix Richard et Robert Hennessy and this is a belter of a race. 5 horses go to post, but in truth it’s only 4 as the 49 rated Dakar is effectively 50lbs wrong at the weights and looks to be here for the €4500 5th placed prize money. When we look at the other 4, it’s a real case of the established fighters against the young pretender.
Thrilling is that young pretender. Trained by the powerful Lageneste and Macaire team, she has won 4 of her 6 starts in 2021, including a Listed chase over this course and distance in June when she beat the ill-fated L’il Rockerfeller by 7-lengths. A repeat of that run will no doubt see her go close and she does receive a considerable amount of weight from her rivals here, but with the presence of Poly Grandchamp in this line up she is unlikely to get things her own way and with other battled hardened stayers in this field I’m keen to take her on. Thrilling is likely to be quite a short price, but this is the deepest contest she has contested and she meets rivals who are rated 20lbs better than those she has already beaten this year, so we may well get some decent value in this market.
Poly Grandchamp and Eddy de Balme are a pair of very likeable types who have spent most of their chasing careers competing at the top level in France. Poly Grandchamp has one way of running and thats to try and go forwards and dictate. He has loads of form at Auteuil and generally runs his race, but at the age of 9 he is starting to look a little vulnerable to those with fewer miles on the clock and having to give weight away to all of his rivals won’t be easy. Eddy de Balme has run some nice races in 2021, including when far from disgraced in the Grand Steeple in May when he finished 6th behind Docteur de Ballon. He returned from a long absence in December 2020 to pick up a couple of lower grade races in the south, but has shown enough to suggest he retains his ability when he stepped back up into graded company. My main concern would be the ground. It’s forecast to be soft, 4,0 on the pentameter, which he has handled in the past, but there is no doubt he prefers it to be deeper. His best form has come in the depths of winter at Pau, when they often race on ground we would consider waterlogged in the UK and it may be that he won’t be seen to best effect until he heads south again.
By a process of elimination I have come down on SAMPARK for this race. As a 10-year-old, he is positively a veteran by French racing standards, but with only 12 starts on his CV he has far fewer miles on the clock than you might expect. He has actually won 3 of his last 5 starts, albeit that they are spread over a period of 2 years, and he was a very impressive winner of a Listed chase on his last start here in May. The time of that race was very good when compared to the other races on the card and the placed horses have run reasonably well since to give some substance to that form. Under the in-form James Reveley he could be overlooked in the market and should be able to stalk the leaders through the early exchanges. Once they turn for home, we will find out if he has the ability he has promised, but I certainly think he deserves another shot at this level.
The feature race is at 1:20 with the Grade 3 Prix The Fellow. This is a chase for the 4-year-olds named after the legendary Gold Cup winner from the early 90s and it looks to be a very strong renewal this time around. I won’t be having a bet in the race, but I will be keenly watching Le Listrac. Trained by Francois Nicolle, he has a penalty to carry here after his win in the Grade 1 Prix Ferdinand Dufaure in the spring. He is a long way clear on the speed figures that I keep and if he is fully tuned up, I expect him to win, but there are much bigger targets for him to aim at later int he autumn so for now I will just watch at what is likely to be quite prohibitive odds.
So far we have looked at more established horses, but in Race 6 at 1:55 we have a horse full of excitement and potential. HARRY CONTI descends from that famous family that includes Silviniaico Conti, Galleo Conti, Ucello Conti and many others. A winner on his debut at Vichy 6 weeks ago, he travelled extremely strongly and quickened nicely when the gaps appeared in the closing stages. There was a swagger about him and he travelled in a manner that suggested he is well above average. With the benefit of that experience he can only improve and this looks like a great opportunity on his first visit to Auteuil.
My final selection comes in the last race, which is a handicap hurdle due off at 2:30 pm and this looks to be a fantastic chance for EL GRINGO to get back into the winners enclosure. Although he hasn’t won since March 2020, he has raced exclusively in Pattern company in that time and this will be his first venture into handicaps. Officially rated 69.5, he has an obvious class edge over his rivals and with James Reveley on board, it will be a disappointment if he doesn’t go close in this company. The field is full of established Auteuil stalwarts, including the very likeable Agrapart who has been sent over for the race by Jane Williams. Having looked through the field, it is hard to say that any of the horses are particularly well treated in their current marks and for that reason I think that El Gringo should have enough class to see him through, even under top weight.