Saturdays action comes from Chateaubriant in western France. A right handed track with tight bends, it normally favours horses who can race prominently, but the long home straight generally means there are fewer hard luck stories. This is a mammoth 11-race card with a mix of flat and hurdles and it is the later races that make most appeal from a punting point of view.
The first opportunity I have found comes in Race 8 at 13:50 UK time. This 3-year-old hurdle could be very informative, even if on paper it doesn't look like it will take a lot of winning. That's a maybe slightly harsh thing to say, especially given that Imagine Clermont has actually won 2 races over hurdles in the provinces at Nort-Sur-Erdre and Jallais. However, those were much weaker contests than this and she was beaten a very long way at Saint-Malo last time. She holds La Reyne Margot through the form of that race at Saint-Malo, but neither makes any appeal. Ispanoza is likely to be very popular in the market as she is from the Lageneste & Macaire yard. She fell at the last on her debut at Auteuil in march. Having travelled well for a long way she tired and came down in what looked quite a nasty tumble at the last. She has been given time to recover from that and any horse running in the French provinces from this yard needs to be respected. However, she would be entitled to need this and looks like she may need more time to get her head in front, albeit that this is a weak race.
Riskaya sets the bar for those who have experience. She finished 2nd behind a potential superstar at Vichy and then ran to a similar level when 3rd at Dieppe. Nathalie Desoutter is an extremely capable pilot and fantastic value for her 2-kilo claim. Whilst Riskaya has achieved most, it is not an insurmountable level and she has looked very one paced on both her recent starts.
For that reason, the 2 Newcomers in the race are worth chancing. Francois Nicolle can certainly ready a newcomer and Rue du Moscou fits the bill. A daughter of Saint des Saints, she is related to 3 winners over hurdles, including her half-brother Kingalola who won on debut and placed in Listed company. With any market confidence on the PMU, she could well be a short-priced favourite for this contest, but it is also worth considering Quintaline for Gab Leenders. This yard is certainly capable of getting a juvenile ready to run well on debut and it is very interesting that she has been supplemented for this race by her connections, in spite of having 4 other entries in the last 3 weeks. She is a half-sister to Give The Best who ran to a decent level as a juvenile for Lageneste & Macaire. With the big “powerhouse” yards having runners in this race, she could well slip under the radar and is likely to represent some value to make a winning start.
Race 10 is a handicap hurdle for the older horses over 2-miles and 5-furlongs. It’s a tricky contest, but I’ve managed to whittle it down to 3. Fighter Jet and Ptiturf have shown enough ability to suggest they can win a contest like this, but both struggle to get their heads in front. The former has been running well over fences and looked like he was finally going to deliver at Clairefontaine last time out when he travelled extremely well under todays jockey, Margot Romary. Having hit the front after the last, he looked to have the race at his mercy, but he idled and looked like he didn’t want to commit and as such he allowed the winner Cocody du Banco to get back up. He returns to hurdles off the same mark and with his jockeys claim is very well treated at the weights, but his overall profile would suggest he doesn’t want to be in front and at likely cramped odds that would put me off.
Ptiturf is a very similar type. He hasn’t won since completing a hat-trick of wins in claiming hurdles in 2019. He has run with consistency since then, without getting his head in front. Last time out at Erbray he travelled so strongly that it he looked a certainty as they turned in. However, having hit the front he pulled himself up and was beaten in a close finish by Get Lu Ka ( a winning debutante for Arnaud Chaille-Chaille). Now he may well have bumped into a good thing on that occasion, but given the way the race panned out, he should have been able to take advantage and this is certainly a deeper contest than that race.
By a process of elimination, with doubts about his 2 main rivals, I have landed on Ciel Divin. The Cadot yard does well with horse like this, placing them carefully to maximise a return from smaller races in the provinces and Ciel Divin fits the bill for me. A winner over fences at Blain in April, he finished 2nd to Bess at Rostrenen last time out, who has subsequently boosted the form by winning again. Very unexposed over hurdles after just 3 starts, Ciel Divin has the potential to be competitive off this mark and this looks a great opportunity for a 3rd career success in a contest where solid winning form is at a premium.
We have to wait for the final race to see the best horse on the card, Moon A Lisa. Many of the top trainers, of which Francis Henri Graffard is certainly one, like to use these class 3 contests as a way of giving their better horses and easier assignment on their comeback before they go on to better things. The conditions of the race work nicely in her favour and the fact that she receives weight from her main rivals in spite of being rated superior gives her a huge edge. With an official mark of 42, she is much better than this grade and twice placed in Listed company last year. Even after a break of 8 months she should have too much class for this field and rates a much better prospect than her likely market rival, Coronado Beach. She ran very well after a similar absence at Toulouse in May 2020 and should take this with ease before moving on to better things. Sadly, not every UK bookmaker has chosen to offer a market in this race as their systems seem to focus on a maximum of 10 races on a card, but as she is likely to be a very short price, it's unlikely to appeal as a betting opportunity anyway. It is more a race for the notebook, with a view to her running well at a higher level next time once she proves that she it fit and well.