National Hunt racing returns to Compiegne this Friday, with an 8-race card that gets going at 11:00am (UK time). Situated an hours drive north-east of Paris, this is a proper jumps track, with long straights and big fences, there is a greater emphasis on stamina here than at any other track in France. Fridays card has a nice mix of hurdles and chases, with the Listed Prix The Stomp, the feature event at 12:30 looking like its a very strong renewal this year. We start the card with a couple of Juvenile hurdles and a 3-year-old Chase, all of which look very tricky races and whilst they are worth watching because they will no doubt offer some clues for the future, I don’t think I could make any confident selections in those races with so much potential improvement amongst the runners.
My first selection will come in the feature race and although this looks a decent renewal of the race, I think that Saint Turgeon is potentially still improving and may well prove up to the task against his elders. He’s a horse I really like and he has been on an almost continuous upward verve in the past year. Easily the stable star for David Satalia, he finished 3rd in the Grade 1 Prix Renaux du Vivier over hurdles last November and has won 2 of his 3 starts over fences at Auteuil in the spring.
Blessed with a high cruising speed and a very sharp turn of foot, he looks to have been found a great opportunity to take his first step into pattern chases. Having won his first 2 starts over fences in the spring, he finished 3rd behind Exupery in May, when he didn’t look to see out the 2-mile 6-furlong trip. Back down in trip in a small field should really suit him and although the official ratings would suggest he has a lot to find, it is worth noting that he has achieved a peak rating of 73.5 kilos over hurdles, fully 7-kilos higher than his chase mark and based on that level of ability, he should be right there at the finish. 3 of his 4 rivals met in the Grade 3 Prix Romati here in May, with Garasil coming out on top to record a 2-length win over Edgeoy in 2nd and Roi Mage a further 5-lengths back in 4th. On that evidence, I think that Garasil is likely to uphold the form, especially as Edgeoy has a 3-kilo penalty to carry. However, that race was run at an attritional gallop, with the Tom George Minella for Me setting an impossible gallop on the front end, yet Garasil needed every yard of that trip on heavy ground to get on top and this drop down in a small field doesn’t look like it will play to his strengths. The final runner is Amour du Mathan from the Chaille-Chaille yard. He is a very honest horse who generally gives his running and he won a decent chase here in March, but I think he needs a lot of juice in the ground to give his best and he may be better suited by a strongly run race on deeper ground in a month or two.
In a small field race, where there is no obvious pace angle, it is likely to be tactical and for that reason I think Saint Turgeon could be ideally suited by the way the race will pan out.
The 1:07 is a claiming hurdle for the older horses and Aureole is a horse I’m delighted to see running. A winner at Vertou last time, she took up the running with a circuit to go and was always in command there after, producing a decent turn of foot to win by 19-lengths. Now that wasn’t the deepest race, but quite frankly neither is this. She receives a lot of weight from her older and in most cases, more exposed rivals and in a are that lacks any real recent form, she could be a decent price to win her 2nd race in a fortnight for Nicolas Paysan.
Race 6 is the most interesting race on the card, certainly with the best quality on show. All eyes will be on Galleo Conti. His profile is well known in the UK (Half-brother to Silviniaico Conti in case you’re new to French racing) and he finished an excellent 3rd to Docteur du Ballon in the Grand Steeple in May. He’s a good horse and will no doubt have much bigger targets later in the autumn, but a hurdle race over 3,600 metres doesn’t look like his cup of tea and he was well beaten in a much weaker hurdle race at Dieppe 3 weeks ago. With just 4 runners, this is almost certainly going to be a tactical affair and he is surely vulnerable to a horse with a turn of foot. Of his rivals, Bernardo Bellotto has been well placed to pick up some decent prize money, but looks out of his depth. Grandeur Nature is a horse that I really like, but he is a much better chaser than a hurdler and this is more likely to be a pipe opener, so that has led me by the process of elimination to Hell Boy. Francois Nicolle’s charge won all 3 of his starts in 2020 and although he is also better known as a chaser, he did win a grade 3 hurdle over this course and distance in 2019 and is exceptionally well treated by the terms of this race, at least 7-kilos “well-in” with all 3 of his rivals and he should win this, even if he needs the run after 14 months off the track. However, in a 4 runner race, at likely cramped odds, I don't think I could be persuaded that he was any real value (unless he was bigger than 2/1) and so will probably just watch this time.
Primarily I work based on data. Speed figures, time comparisons, official ratings and good old fashioned form study. However, occasionally I like to follow my own instincts and for that reason I can’t resist taking an each-way swing on Honesta in the final race at 2:49. On official figures she has a lot to find and a career record of 0-12 doesn’t inspire too much confidence. However, she has only finished outside of the first 4 once in her career when completing and she really caught my eye when she was pulled up at Clairefontaine last time out. That may sound a crazy thing to say, but it is worth watching the replay. This was a very hot handicap hurdle won by the very progressive Dexter (Francois Nicolle), with the 6th placed Herve du Seuil winning a decent race at Auteuil on Tuesday this week to boost the form.
Having been settled in mid-division, she was beginning to make eye catching headway as the field turned for home, when she was brought to a standstill by a faller at the 2nd last and was pulled up immediately after. Clearly none the worse for that, this run may well have slipped under the radar and whilst I cannot say whether she would have beaten Dexter, I am very confident that she would have gone very close and for that reason she could represent some very decent value if she is able to repeat that effort here.