Much like the swallows, French national hunt racing heads south for the winter and most of the action over the next few months will be based at Pau and Cagnes-Sur-Mer. If Fridays meeting at this seaside track was anything to go by, it will definitely be worth following horses who are able to race prominently, with 8 out of 9 winners on Friday being ridden in the first 4 in the early stages.
I’m hoping for a good days work from Bertrand Lestrade as he has a few very decent rides on the card. At 11:55 we have a conditions hurdles for 4-year-olds and over and SAINT ANJOU would look to have a great chance. This son of Saint-des-Saints was chasing a hat-trick when he was beaten at Auteuil last time, following wins at Compiegne and Bordeaux in the autumn. He did far too much in front on heavy going at Auteuil and was eased right down once his chance had gone, so I don’t read too much into his 31-length defeat. That race was a step too far and he is in much calmer waters here. Bertrand Lestrade should be able to get a prominent position in this field of 7 and he should have too much for his rivals when they kick for home. His main market rivals, Curly Basc and Meredith were both well beaten on their most recent starts and don’t have any recent form of note. A repeat of either his winning performances from Compiegne or Bordeaux would be enough to win this.
Later on the card at 1:07 is a 4-year-old chase and Bertrand Lestrade has another great chance with KIMRIVER. He was a very creditable 3rd in a hot race at Bordeaux behind Bubble blue, where he made the running and was unlucky to be caught by the 2 closers, finishing beaten just over a length. That was an excellent front-running performance on his first chase start since march. With the benefit of that experience, he will hopefully get an uncontested lead in this field and should be able to dictate the fraction before kicking for home. His main market rival will be Volkov Jelois, who has to be respected, especially getting weight from Kimriver. However, all of his best form has been over hurdles and he didn’t look a natural chaser on his 2 starts over fences in the summer. A sharp track like this, where his jumping will need to be spot on, may not pay to his strengths and I think Kimriver represents some good value.
My final pick runs in the 1:42, a 4-year-old hurdle over 2-miles and a furlong. GRANIT DE THAIX was last seen when making the running in a very decent contest at Nantes on 13th November. Granit De Thaix made the running that day on heavy ground and was unlucky to be caught in the home straight as he tired, finishing an admirable 3rd. The winner, Grazano was a well backed favourite who was returning from a 465 day absence and was clearly thrown in at that level. The 2nd, Fix At All came late with Grazano and certainly boosted the form by bolting up at Auteuil last Thursday. That looks to be a very strong piece of form, certainly stronger than the recent runs of the other fancied runners in this field, Edison (who returns from the flat) and Kheliana Chope (who won a weaker race at Fontainebleau last month). Granit de Thaix is normally ridden prominently and he should be in the perfect position to make a challenge here and is some decent each-way value in a race that lacks depth.