Wednesdays early card comes from Dax, with 8 races on the Flat. Whilst it doesn’t have the class and excitement of the action at York, the winners will pay the same if we can find them and there are a few decent chances on this card to get stuck into.
Racing gets going at 11:00 (UK time) with a Claimer for the older horses over the extended 10-furlongs. For the grade, this looks a very decent race. The obvious starting point is Zouave Valley, who absolutely hacked up in a similar race at Mont-de-Marsan last month on his first run at this level. Officially rated 31 he is well treated in this race based on the evidence of that run, where he broke well from a wide draw and dominated the race from start to finish, coming away to win by 3 lengths from Honor Bere, who is also in this field. A swing at the weights might helped Honor Bere get closer, but I think Zouave Valley won with a lot in hand that day and so I can’t see how that form is overturned if they both give their running.
If he gets a soft lead, then Zouave Valley could dominate this race, but he has a very inconsistent profile and at a likely short price I would be quite keen to take him on and there are several dangers to look at, all of which have crossed the border from Spain for this race. Firstly there is Tito, a winner on his last start at Royan, he has several good pieces of form to his name from San Sebastian last autumn and if the race was run at a very strong gallop, it could play to his strengths as he is a very strong stayer. However, he was well suited by the strong pace at Royan and he needed every yard of the 1-mile 6-furlongs to get his head in front, so this drop in trip surely leaves him vulnerable to horses with a better turn of foot.
Incitatus has much stronger claims, having won a Class 3 handicap over this course and distance last week, staying on well to win by a length in a good time for the grade. If anything, this race is easier and he definitely ran to his mark of 28.5 in winning that race. He has been raised to 32.0 for the effort and following that win, he does have weight to give away and so is actually wrong with the likes of Zouave Valley and Honor Bere, but he is a clear player.
However, sometimes it can pay to take a flyer on a gut feeling over the obvious form and in this race I want to do that with Baciver. A multiple winner in his native Spain, the official handicapper for the Jockey Club de Espana rates him at 37.5, which leaves him very well treated in this race. Following a win in a mile handicap at Madrid in June, his trainer pitched him in at the deep end in a Class 1 conditions race at La Teste 4 weeks ago. That was a hot race, won by We Ride the World who is a group class performer rated 46.5. Although outclassed in that race, Baciver was held up behind a steady pace and had no real chance of landing a blow. He was allowed to coast home in his own time, but was only beaten 13-lengths and the fact that he was even entered in a contest of that natures shows the high regard he is held in. He had 2 entries today, at Dax and Vichy, so it is perhaps another tick in a box that they have chosen this race and even with the bug drop in class, he could well be a decent price and so I think he is worth chancing.
Race 2 is the feature, with a Class 2 conditions race for the 3-year-olds. There isn’t much between the 7 runners and they all look to be running at the right level but I think there is one horse with more potential than the rest and that horse is Philau. A winner on debut at Toulouse in February, he finished with half a length of Gregolimo (a Listed winner at Deauville this Sunday, now rated 47.5) before finishing 2nd in a Class 1 on his last French start at Bordeaux in April. Having left the Sogorb yard, he was given a break after that, but returned to finish 2nd at San Sebastian last month and that should have put him spot on for this race. He should get accent position from stall 6 and has already shown that he has a decent turn of foot if the race becomes tactical (which looks highly likely). With just 4 career starts, there is surely more improvement in him and he could well prove to be a class above his rivals, who in general look solid, but somewhat exposed.
The remainder of this card is very tricky. There is an Anglo-Arabian bumper and a 2-year-old claimer that look virtually impossible puzzles to solve, but the handicaps offer some hope and it is in Race 6 at 1:41 that my final selection comes.
This is a Class 4 handicap for the older horses over 7-furlongs and I am very sweet on the chances of Circle of Hands under the very talented Lily Le Pemp. A winner over this course and distance on his last start on 7th July, he battled bravely to hold on in what turned out to be a very strong race for the grade, with both the 2nd and 3rd winning since to boost the form. Able to race here off the same mark of 26, he looks to have been found a decent opportunity to follow up. Stall 9 is not ideal, but he has always broken smartly from the gate and so I don’t think it will be a huge inconvenience to him. He had a couple of these horses in behind him in July, but the front 3 pulled well clear of the rest and I think there is still plenty of room off this mark, especially as he won a Class 3 handicap at Saint-Cloud when rated much higher at 32.5 in May 2020.
There are a couple of obvious dangers in this line up, in particular Mythical Creature and Hurricane Light. Mythical Creature has the top weight to carry, but this represents a drop in class for him and he has spent most of his career racing at a much higher level than this. There is no doubt that he is well handicapped at this level, but the same could have been said on his last race in Class 4 company when he finished 2nd at La Teste in June. A career record of 2 wins from 37 starts is probably a decent reflection of his will to win and I think his overall profile and run style would suggest he isn’t overly keen on getting his head in front, so I’m happy to take him on. Hurricane Light has been supplemented for this race and his Spanish trainer is very adept at placing his horses to take advantage of the French prize money, so he deserves respect. He achieved a peak rating of 40-kilos in his younger days, so might look an obvious danger rated just 26.5. However, he has been largely regressive in the last 18 months and was beaten by 4 lengths in a much weaker race than this at Aurillac last week. His overall record would suggest he will struggle to give weight to Circle of Hands and it would look like he is a mere shadow of the horse he once was.