Into the second week of the Flat season at Cagnes-Sur-Mer, although most of this week’s action was run on the All-Weather track so whether you would describe this as the “Flat” is open to debate. This will be a relatively short piece, primarily because the 2nd week of the meeting at Cagnes is generally the quietest of the Flat season and although the racing was both competitive and entertaining, there was a sense of a lull in proceedings before we get into the Class 1 contests next month. With relatively few races on the turf this week, it is the action on the Artificial surface that I will focus on, though it should be added that the bias towards the horses who raced prominently and stayed closer to the far rail appeared to continue to be the way to focus on the Turf track.
So, what of the All-Weather track? Well, the left-handed oval track runs around the outside of the turf, meaning the bends are longer and wider, but it holds a striking similarity to the Turf results. There were 24 races run on the All-Weather this week and 19 of those were won by horses who raced within 3-lengths of the lead in the early stages. Only 2 of those winners could be considered as having “made all”, those being Daily Motion (23rd Jan) and Blu Metal jacket (25th) and the latter is a bit of a front running specialist at the track having won on the 16th of January with a similar ride. In fact, Blu Metal Jacket was very close to being put up as the horse of the week, this was a 7th career win in 18 starts and although he has been plying his trade in his native Italy, he proved that his earlier success was no fluke, and he looks value for his 42.5-kilo rating.
Back to the data though and whilst there is no obvious draw bias, the long bend at the top of the track is the key to understanding the pace bias, as every jockey understands the importance of staying tight to the inside rail and not covering too much ground by going wide in that part of the race. With this in mind, those who can’t get forwards into a prominent position are forced to drop in and ride for luck, in the hope that the leaders have gone too hard, and they will get a chance to come wide as they tire. I don’t want to make sweeping generic statements, but most French races are not run in that style, and I could produce 5,000 words on the number of unlucky losers who were forced to drop in at tracks like Cagnes.
Last week I highlighted the way that Jean-Claude Rouget targets this meeting, and this week was no exception, 3 winners and 7 places from 16 runners. He has started the careers of several top-class horses at this meeting in recent years, most notably Raabihah and there were some signs this week that the horses he had entered were above average. The form does need to be treated with some caution, the maiden races don’t always have the depth of those run at the Paris tracks later in the year, but trainers are creatures of habit and Rouget is sticking to his. Mitumba and Swing for Me both produced impressive performances to win this week and whilst probably not quite Group 1 winners in waiting, both look capable of running to marks of 40-kilos and above.
I appreciate that not everybody has the time to sit and watch every race run in France, but if you have a spare 10-minutes this weekend, it would be worth looking over the 2 Newcomers races run at Cagnes-Sur-Mer on Thursday. The winner of the fillies’ race, ECLAIREE, was very well backed for her debut and never looked like getting beaten once she settled in behind the early leader and her closing 3-furlongs time of 33.12s would suggest that she has an electric turn-of-foot when she needs it. The race had a finishing percentage of 114%, so I have also made notes on the 2nd (Union Square) and 3rd ,(Habeebah) both trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, as it would have been a big ask for them to get on terms with the winner, especially given the closing sectional times that she recorded.
Eclairee ran a time of 2:05.91, which was bettered an hour later by the winner of the Colts and Geldings maiden, ACE IMPACT, who ran 2:05.52. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, he won by over 3-lengths from the well supported Axiome, who had set an even gallop and remained clear of the rest. This race also turned into a sprint, with the final 3-furlongs run in 33.37s at a finishing percentage of 113%. By Cracksman, Ace Impact is a half-brother to Alessandro and Apollo Flight and looks certain to stay much further than the 10-furlongs over which he made his debut. Stamina with a turn-of-foot is an ideal combination for a French 3-year-old and if you add just one horse to the tracker this week, it should be him. I will be very surprised if he doesn’t prove to be a pattern performer by the end of this season.