Tuesday afternoons action comes from Dax, a beautiful track in the south-west of France close to the Spanish border. We have 8 races on the Flat and with forecast Good-to-Soft going we have perfect ground for a decent looking card. This is a right-handed track, extremely flat and generally pretty fair as it opens out nicely in the home straight and that negates any significant pace bias. That said, it is a proper speed track, very similar to nearby La Teste, so I prefer to look for horses who have a turn of foot, as opposed to out and out stamina. Most races here tend to be steadily run and turn into a sprint for home, so it often pays to look for horses with the necessary raw speed to win the dash when it comes.
We open at 3:27 with a 2-year-old maiden over 7-furlongs, a fascinating race on paper, though not one I would be keen to bet in. Of those who have experience, Jean-Claude Rouget’s Asad Zabeel sets the standard having finished 4th and 3rd in 2 starts at La Teste. Those efforts don’t set the bar overly high, so it may be worth considering one of the newcomers in the line up, with Mogwai from the Sogorb team making the most appeal. She is a daughter of Dark Angel out of Group 3 winning mare Ferevia and has a nice mix of speed and stamina in her pedigree, but writing this 2 days in advance, I can’t confidently make a selection so it will just be a watching brief for me.
My first pick on the card comes in Race 2 at 4:02, where we have a Class 4 handicap for the older horses. Hong Kong Star would be my strongest fancy on this card. Having won here over this course and distance as a 2-year-old in August 2019, she looked to be a promising type. 2 years later, after a further 16 starts, she is still chasing a 2nd win, but I don’t see that as a reason to give up hope. Having been given a tough opening mark of 35 (the equivalent of 82 in UK ratings), it has taken her some time to come down to a mark that better reflects her ability, in part because she has run with so consistently. A drop to a mark of 25 has allowed her to run in Class 4 races for the first time and that may prove to be the key. The drop to class 4 almost paid dividends at the first time of asking when she finished a close 2nd at Mont-de-Marsan on his last start on 30th July. Having raced towards the rear, he probably had too much ground to make up with the eventual winner Beyond My Dreams, who raced more prominently, but she kept on nicely to go down by just over a length. Given that Beyond My Dreams is rated 28 and the fact they raced that day carrying the same weight, I think it is fair to describe this current mark of 25 as an opportunity. She has been found a weak Class 4 contest and under Antoine Werle, who has a good record at this track, she should really have too much ability for her rivals.
Race 3 is a 3-year-old maiden over 7-furlongs and whilst I won’t be getting involved in the race, I think it is worth taking note that Fanciful Tale makes her debut for Henri-Alex Pantall. Owned by Godolphin, she could have been drawn better in stall 11, but the fact that she is a full-sister to Harry Angel, is enough to get me excited about her prospects.
The 5th Race is another Class 4 handicap, this time over just shy of 12-furlongs and I really like the chances of the top weight, Canada. Trained by Guillaume Heurtault, this 5-year-old son of Wootton Bassett is a clear form pick. Last time out he finished 4th in a Claimer at Mont-de-Marsan over this trip, making good late headway to finish 4 lengths behind the winner, Zouave Valley. The 3 horses who finished in front of him are all rated at least 6-kilos higher than Canada and when we make adjustments for the weight carried, he effectively ran to a mark of 26-kilos, fully 4-kilos higher than he runs off in this race. Laura Foulard is excellent value for her 2.5-kilo claim and she has a good record of 6 placings from 10 rides at Dax. All of this would suggest that this could be the day for Canada to get his head back in front.
The main dangers may come from the same form line of a race at Mont-de-Marsan last month. Fee du Bien finished 2nd and Louve Dancer finished 4th in a blanket finish of a handicap of this trip. Both had their chances, but were outstayed by the eventual winner Baileys Diamant. Louve Dancer is a 70-race maiden, rated just 15 and however eye-catching his run at Mont-de-Marsan may have been, I can’t overlook that record and it would be a shock if he managed to get his head in front.
Fee du Bien is a different story, under the very talented claimer Alejandro Gutierrez Val, this 5-year-old is much less exposed than most in this line up and has run well on both his starts in July, when 2nd at Pompadour and Mont-de-Marsan. He does have a very consistent record and in the context of this race that makes him stand out, but I can’t help thinking he should have managed to get his head in front in July. Both races were run to suit him, he was ideally placed, but didn’t take advantage and that would be enough to put me off what is likely to be a relatively short price.
The biggest danger is more likely to come from Sweet or Bitter. She finished 2nd at Mont-de-Marsan on 21st July, beaten 2 lengths by Machistador (who actually went on to finish 3rd in the Claimer that Canada was 4th in, 1 length ahead), which was her best run in over a year. Now we do need to note that her trainer, Bruno de Montzey, has been experimenting with her over a wide range of distances, so some of that form can be forgiven. However, a record of 0-16 is an obvious concern, even at this low level and I think Canada may well have a much sharper turn of foot so as they carry level weights, I would have much more confidence about him.
The last race on the card is a 3-year-old contest for the Anglo-Arab horses. The recent successes in the UK of Sully D’Oc AA for JP McManus has raised the profile of this breed, which for those of you that don’t know are horses that are a cross breed between Thoroughbred and Arabian breeds, with a minimum of 25% Arabian in their pedigree. Predominantly, these horses are bred as National Hunt types and this race is typical of their starting point, with a 12-furlong bumper.
The horse that stands out here for me is Smart Chop, ridden by Fabrice Veron. He was last seen finishing 4th in a very hot race at Mont-de-Marsan on 17th July. He chased home 3 previous winners that day and that piece of form would look to be superior to the rest of his rivals here, including several that he holds through various form lines and previous meetings. If Vergoignan did win a race at Pompadour last time out by 10 lengths, with a couple of todays rivals in behind and deserves respect. However, form from the flat course at Pompadour doesn’t always translate. The Fibresand surface and sweeping downhill finish often means it can be very hard for horses to make up ground for the rear and it is a completely different test to Dax. The time wasn’t exceptional and I would be very surprised if that form turns out to be stronger than the race at Mont-de-Marsan.