I’m still on the theme of “I couldn’t pick an Ascot winner if I waited all year, so why bother”, I’ll stick to what I know and head to Dieppe in France instead this Friday. This is an 8-race mixed card, but it is the earlier races over obstacles that look the most interesting. Small fields can happen everywhere, especially in the middle of a 30-degree-plus heatwave, but although only 1 of the 4 jumps contests can boast a field of 8, this does look to be an above average card for the time of year. Dieppe can be a difficult track to read, the tight bends and relatively short straights can make it a front runners paradise, especially on decent ground, but the small fields should negate that and there are a couple of prices that stood out for me.
12:40 - Prix Le Blason Le Petit Quevily - 3YO Hurdle - Dark King
Just 4-runners will go to post for this 3-year-old contest, but a case can be made for each and it is no surprise to see this priced to just 106% in the early markets, as there is very little between them on paper. Winteriscoming has probably achieved the most and his 3rd placed finish at Auteuil is the strongest hurdles form on offer, but he is penalised for 3 placed finishes and a record of 0-7, with upwards of 3-kilos to give away is enough to tempt me away. Fricotin won nicely at Royan, but what he beat is open to question and the time was not as impressive as the visual performance, whilst the 2nd placed finish that Lion Kirikou managed at Niort was also a nice effort, but this looks a much deeper race. So by the process of elimination, I have landed on DARK KING. He makes his hurdles debut for Francois Nicolle having finished 2nd at Chantilly on his only start on the Flat. That was an extremely strong Newcomers event, form proven by the fact that the 3rd placed horse, Lassaut, has run well in both the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Jockey Club since. He is quirky and has refused to load and looks a handful, but this could prove to be the making of him. His Flat pedigree should give him an advantage in a small field race that is likely to develop into a sprint and he is certain to have been well-schooled for his hurdles debut. With conditions in his favour, he looks the bet in a trappy race.
1:50 - Prix O Pas Sage Torcy - 5YO+ Hurdle - Greatless
I’m leaving the 2nd race alone as it was hard to find an angle but in race 3 comes my strongest fancy of the day in the form of GREATLESS. She is a relatively prolific 6-year-old for this grade and has actually won 4 of the last 5 races that she has managed to complete, though we should also add that there have been a few thrills and spills in between those victories. A winner at Niort on 29th May, where she gave weight and a 12-length beating to several of todays rivals and although she has weight to give away here too, she carried the same 70-kilos last month so it shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience. She has a more consistent profile than Sambrillon and Helicine, who look to be her main rivals and I think she is a classier mare than either of those, it will be a surprise if she doesn’t land a 5th career success on these terms.
2:20 - Prix La Nef Neuville - 4YO Claiming Hurdle - American Park
The final race that I’ve looked at is the Claiming hurdle at 2:20. In truth, none of this field can be overly relied upon to run their race, but if there is a decent claim for someone in this field, then it is probably AMERICAN PARK. He won twice on the Flat for Fabrice Chappet and reached a peak rating of 35.5-kilos when he won a Chantilly Handicap in May 2021. Claimed by the Rolland team at Fontainebleau in November, he has been contesting better races than this in his 5 starts over hurdles and bits and pieces of his form, including when a 3.5 length 3rd to Goodwood at Auteuil in March, would suggest he is capable of winning races over obstacles. He finished 5th behind the unexposed Lassiter at Auteuil in another claiming hurdle 3-weeks ago and there is nothing of that calibre in this race. Having raced in midfield, he loomed menacingly as they turned for home, but his rider chose to head for the stands rail, away from the rest of the runners and lost many lengths in doing so. We can upgrade that run significantly and if he repeats the effort, he should go close here.
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12:40 - Dark King - 0.5pt WIN
1:50 - Greatless - 1pt WIN
2:20 - American Park - 0.5pt WIN