Jumps racing takes centre stage in France this Friday with an 8-race card at Fontainebleau. It isn't the highest quality card, but it is certainly a competitive card and there is a very interesting 3-year-old hurdle that could give some decent pointers to the future. Having looked through the card, the best bet would appear to be in Race 2, where we have a Class 3 chase for the 5-year-olds that the market appears to have got slightly wrong (or that's the theory anyway)
11:20 Fontainebleau - Hyghliner Great - 0.5pt WIN - 11/4 (PaddyPower, SKYBet)
There is an odd shape to the early markets for this Class 3 conditions chase, with the short-priced favourite Saint Pair looking like he has been priced on potential and his connections, rather than what he has achieved. He won a 4-year-old hurdle at Compiegne on Heavy ground in November and made his chase debut when 3rd over this course and distance a month ago, beaten 4-lengths by Highest Love. On the face of it, the form is decent, but he never really got on terms in that race and looked relatively one paced in the closing stages. The form is also open to question, as the winner pulled up on his next start and the 2nd was beaten in the Provinces at Saumur last weekend, whilst the 5th has also been well beaten in the interim period. Given that he is trained by the excellent Lageneste and Macaire team he is worthy of respect, but he is too short at 8/11 and is worth taking on.
The Boivin trained pair make limited appeal on the form they have shown so I am happy to overlook them, whilst Paintball and Erik the Viking have run to a fair standard over fences, without looking like they are winners in waiting, with a combined record of 1-32. All of this has led me to HYGHLINER GREAT. A very impressive winner of a handicap hurdle at Pau in January, he has won 2 of his 7 starts over hurdles and made his chase debut in a very hot Class 2 contest at Pau last month. Having made the running, he was still in command when he made a shuddering error at the 5th from home and Clement Lefebvre did very well to keep the partnership in tact. He recovered and was still in front at the 3rd last, but his rider seemed concerned that he may be injured and did the right thing and eased him down. That race was won by Virgo Celestin, who is a 62-rated Chaser who has won 6 of his 7 starts for the Lageneste and Macaire team, whilst the 2nd and 3rd are also reasonably talented. The fact that Hyghliner Great was able to maintain a gallop with that calibre of horse before he made that error bodes very well in this contest and if he can get into a good rhythm in front, he could prove to have too much class for his mainly limited rivals. This would look to be a 2-horse race on paper, but there is far too bigger a discretion in the early markets to leave Hyghliner Great unbacked.