What can we say about the Racing in the UK?
It's Royal Ascot next week and as a result the standard of racing in the UK is a bit lacking this weekend, the same cannot be said for Auteuil. Saturday sees an 8-race card in Paris, with 3 Graded contests, a pair of very exciting 3-year-old Listed hurdles and some decent handicaps. There are plenty of nice types on show and it features the last major 3-year-old races at Auteuil before the track takes its annual summer break. The 2 feature races, the Prix La Barka and the Prix Des Drags look competitive affairs, but having looked through all 8 races I have found several good betting opportunities on the card.
4:17 - Prix D’iena - 3YO Listed Hurdle - 3500m
On paper this looks like being a match race between Villa Rica and Angela Du Berlais. They finished 1,2 in the Prix Sagan last month and that level of form looks significantly stronger than anything else in this contest can bring to the table. They both travelled strongly through that contest, but having been level turning for home, Villa Rica quickly asserted and pulled readily clear on the run to the line to record a 7-length victory. Angela Du Berlais does get a 2-kilo swing at the weights from that race and it should be noted that she is clearly highly thought of, as she has been pitched into the Prix Wild Monarch and then a Grade 3 on her only 2 starts on the track, but Villa Rica holds her on form. Villa Rica pulled comfortably clear last time and the swing at the weights does not look to be enough to reverse that form, even considering that she is slightly more exposed after 4 starts. She is a full-sister to the yards successful hurdler Polirico, who is a multiple graded hurdle winner in France and who progressed significantly from his 3-year-old career into one of the leading French hurdle prospects in 2018 and 2019. The Lageneste and Macaire team are flying along and passed the 75 winner mark for the calendar year with Edgar du Berlais at Dieppe on Thursday. She looks to be one of the leading 3-year-old hurdle prospects in France and should confirm that, though the more cautious punter may consider the reverse forecast with Angela Du Berlais, who looks to only opponent capable of the necessary improvement.
4:52 - Prix La Barka - 5YO+ Grade 2 Hurdle - 4300m
Another competitive race and the fact that the early market has this race at 4/1 the field shows how open it is. Plenty of these have been round Auteuil more times than the support car and it would also be fair to say that a lot of the runners have had plenty of chances at this level without really delivering the goods. Garasil, Becquarainbow, Belle Promesse and Bernardo Bellotto certainly fit into that category and against some improving types they will probably come up short again. This may go to one of the up and coming 5-year-olds, with Henri Le Farceur leading the form lines with his 5th placed finish in last months French Champion hurdle. Hugo Merienne’s charge is probably the most likely winner, but that was a hard race and he had only 3-weeks recovery time in between, whilst he meets several rivals who avoided that race. At a double figure price, an each-way play on Grand Art looks the best option for me. He is very strong traveller and looks well worth another try at this level. He won a pair of Listed hurdles here in the autumn and after a couple of below par efforts, he returned to winning ways over fences at Dieppe last month. That was a nothing race, but he produced a good final circuit time, 5 seconds quicker than the average, and it was the manner with which he travelled and jumped that suggests he has returned to his peak form. Felix De Giles was due to take the ride, having been on board for both of those Autumn successes, but he suffered a bad fall at Dieppe on Thursday and is likely to be out for a while with broken ribs. Despite this, Grand Art he makes a lot of appeal in a race that should be run to suit and although it has been a quiet year for the Dubois yard, 2 winners from their last 8 runners would suggest that they are starting to hit top form.
5:27 - Prix Stanley - 3YO Listed Hurdle - 3500m
My strongest fancy on the card comes in the Prix Stanley. Carlton du Berlais has not yet got his head in front, but he has run some great races in defeat, including when 3rd behind the very exciting Losange Bleu in the Prix Aguado last time. The sectional data shows that he actually ran a faster final 1000m than the winner and covered 17-metres further than the 2nd, all of which came in a race that matched the final circuit time Hermes Baie, the winner of the French Champion hurdle on the same card. We can upgrade that performance significantly on the figures and that would put him some way clear of the rest of this field. He should and probably will have an odds-on SP and if he is going to get his head in front, then Saturday should be the day.
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4:17 - Villa Rica - 1pt Win
4:17 - Villa Rica/Angela Du Berlais - 0.5pt Reverse Forecast
4:52 - Grand Art - 0.5pt Each-Way
5:27 - Carlton du Berlais - 2pt Win