We continue our tour of the French Countryside on Friday evening with a 9 race mixed card at Dax in the South-west. This is one of the most picturesque courses in France and plays host to both flat and jumps racing. Although the bends are relatively tight, there is enough room in the straights to avoid any serious traffic issues here and there are very few hard luck stories, which makes punting a little safer. If you ever get the chance to tour the South-West of France near the Pyrenees, Dax, along with La Teste, Mont-de-Marsan, Pau and Toulouse make up the bulk of a racing micro-climate, similar to the courses in Scotland or the west of Ireland. With so many tracks in a relatively small area, there are lots of form lines that intertwine and it can make it much easier to get a handle on which races are likely to work out best. There is something for everyone on this card, but the last 3 races made the most appeal to me.
6:50 - Prix Gerald de Geoffre - Grand Steeple-Chase de Dax - Chouan
This is the Grand Steeple-Chase de Dax and with €48,000 in the pot, it is not surprising to see that several of the major jumps yards have sent runners. Top of the list is Franocis Nicolle, who runs Araucarias and Pamela des Mottes. The former is the most unexposed runner in the field and has won his last 2 starts, including a 3-length win here on 22nd May. Having won 3 of his 6 starts, he remains open to improvement, but this race is a much deeper contest than anything he has previously contested and there are some experienced rivals in this field against which, he may well be found out. Pamela des Mottes is a classy mare on her day and has a Listed hurdles win at Auteuil on her CV. She receives weight from her rivals and although this is her first start over fences since 2020, she has shown enough ability to win a race of this nature. The track is an unknown, as is the going, with most of her better form coming with more cut in the ground, but of the 2 Nicolle runners, she looks the more likely.
The Lageneste and Macaire team are also represented, with the 7-year-old My Way, who is the highest rated horse in the field and is the most likely favourite. He has 7 victories on his CV and seems versatile in both trip and ground, as he showed when making a winning return over hurdles at Royan last time. That wasn’t a particularly good race and was little more than a prep run to restore some confidence after a couple of falls, but he did it well enough and it should put him spot on for this. My Way should be involved in the finish, but I am a creature of habit and so I like to look for patterns amongst runners and trainers, which has led me to the 2021 winner of this race CHOUAN. Trained by Arnaud Chaille-Chaille, he won this race by 3-lengths a year ago and although as a 6-year-old he now has more weight to carry, the 4-kilo claim of his very capable rider Quentin Gaignard more than offsets that. Gaignard was onboard when he finished 2nd over hurdles at Nantes last month, making good late headway to close on the in form winner Caliknight. That was a perfectly good effort and should put him spot on for this race as he attempts to defend his crown from 2021.
7:32 - Prix Farida IV - Feijoa du Pecos
Next we come to the Prix Farida IV, which is a race for the Anglo-Arabs over 2300m. The majority of the AA races are held in the south-west of France and as a result most of these contests involve horses who have met before. We can draw various form lines between the market principles in this contest, but the key appears to be a similar race run at Toulouse last month. That race was won by Incroyable D’oc, who finished 2-lengths in front of FEIJOA DU PECOS in 2nd, but it is the latter who is taken to reverse that form here. She was a winner at Tarbes in April and may well have won at Toulouse had she not been snatched up at a crucial stage and forced to wait for racing room. She gets a 1-kilo swing at the weights from that contest and should get a fairer run round in a smaller field this time. Although she was only 6th in this contest a year ago, she was only beaten by 6-lengths and has won twice since, to suggest that she has improved in the interim and looks good value in the early markets.
8:05 - Prix Arnaud de Watigrant - Inedit Des Ciergues
It could be a very good day for the Chaille-Chaille yard as they look to have a great chance in the last too with INEDIT DES CIERGUES. This is a handicap chase for the 4-year-olds over 3500m and it is fair to say that he arrives into this race with the best form in the book. He won easily at Montlucon earlier in the month, but it is his 2nd placed finish behind Avenue du Mesnil over hurdles in May that reads best. That winner went on to win again at Auteuil recently and looks to be a very smart prospect, so if Inedit des Ciergues can match that level of form he should really prove better than his current mark of 57-kilos. Quentin Gaignard again takes off a useful claim and that should leave him well treated here.
Several of his rivals met in a race at Dieppe on 11th May, when Ivresse D’estruval (3rd) finished 2 lengths in front of Riskaya (4th). The form of that race looks relatively strong for the grade, but both may struggle to give weight away here. Instead the biggest danger may come from the unexposed Tour Etoilee, who makes her chase debut for the Lageneste and Macaire team after some decent efforts over hurdles. Her dam won 3 times over fences and she is a half-sister to 5 winners, so it shouldn’t be too long before she gets her head in front. A mark of 57 may not be beyond her in time, but with 4-kilos to concede to the selection this won’t be an easy task.
6:50 - Chouan - 0.5pt Win
7:32 - Feijoa du Pecos AA - 0.5pt Win
8:05 - Inedit des Ciergues - 1pt Win
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