The winter National Hunt season is well underway and with the excitement of Auteuil this Saturday to look forwards to, there is a decent 7-race card at Fontainebleau to wet the appetite. It’s probably fair to say that the change in the weather will have made the ground softer than at previous meetings held here so far this season and so we can certainly put a greater emphasis on stamina.
We get underway at 11:25 with a 5-year-old chase over 3850 meters, and this is a very tricky start to the card. At the weights, Gooaaal has it all to do. Even with his riders claim, he is 4-kilos wrong at the weights with his main rivals and although he arrives here in decent form, having finished 2nd at Bordeaux 2 weeks ago, this will be a big ask. Gue du Loup has won a couple of chases in the provinces, at Saint-Brieuc and Le Pin Au Haras, but will still need to improve again to win here. He won his final start by 17-lengths and if he can build on that effort he could get involved in the finish, but that race fell apart somewhat and the 2nd was beaten a long way on his next start, which perhaps leaves Gue du Loup slightly flattered by his official rating of 57.
Galerande makes her chase debut for Mickael Seror and with James Reveley booked, she is likely to be popular in the market. She is yet to get her head in front after 5 starts over hurdles and although her latest run when she finished 5th at Vichy was a better effort, she still looks to have achieved less than her 4 rivals.
GEDEON MADRIK has been supplemented for this race and this looks to be a very shrewd piece of placement by his owner/trainer Ludo Buyl. He won a claiming hurdle at Lyon Parilly in the summer but had been running with consistency over hurdles prior to that victory. He has switched from Gab Leenders in the interim and his new yard have chosen to go over fences, which should suit given that his dam won 2 of her 3 chase starts. He did have 1 previous run over fences, when he finished 3rd at Fougeres in March, but if he is able to repeat the form he showed at Angers and Pau over hurdles last autumn, he should go very close here in a relatively weak race for the grade.
Race 2 is a claiming hurdle for the 3-year-olds and most of the runners met in a similar contest at Auteuil on 6th October. Top Cresselia came out on top that day, having come from last to first in the home straight to get her head in front in the final few strides. If she can repeat that effort, she should go close, but she has pulled up at Auteuil in the interim and in the race on 6th October, the leaders went too fast, and she was able to pick up the pieces.
HAVANIA was beaten by Top Cresselia in the Auteuil contest, but there was only a neck in it, and she was sent for home far too soon. With a 1-kilo swing at the weights and a more even paced ride, she should be able to gain revenge for that defeat and gain a 6th win this year. Antidote also deserves a mention as she finished 3rd in the race on 6th October, beaten 5-lengths and she could be the one to fill the places, though she has a lot to find with Havania if she is to get her head in front.
Race 3 is the most interesting race on the card, with a very exciting 3-year-old steeplechase. With so many potential improvers in this race, it is not a betting opportunity, but it will be well worth watching, with the unbeaten Mont D’id taking on Ironique, Riskaya and Ilvientdela Baie.
Race 4 is another chase, this time for the 4-year-olds and would look to be a match race between Baladin de Mesc and HAUT MORVAN. Baladin de Mesc is the highest rated of these, though that rating is based mainly on his hurdles form. Last October he finished 3rd in a Grade 1 hurdle at Auteuil and if he can match that hurdle form, he will win this easily. However, his record over fences is much less inspiring with form figures of F,3,6 and he really struggled on his last chase start at Clairefontaine in August.
The soft ground may help him, and we should note that this is the easiest contest he has contested for some time, but in HAUT MORVAN, he does meet an unexposed rival who could give him something to think about. He comes from a good family, and it is worth noting that his younger half-brother, Ironique, has already won over fences as a 3-year-old and runs in Race 3 on this card. Francois Nicolle is wasting no time in sending him over fences and he ran perfectly well when 5th over hurdles behind the talented Obeone at Auteuil in September. That should put him spot on for this chase debut and as he will certainly have been well schooled, he should be ready to do himself justice and could be worth chancing in receipt of 4-kilos from Baladin de Mesc.
I should also mention Avocette. She comes from the powerful Lageneste and Macaire team and has been quietly campaigned in the provinces so far, winning here over hurdles in February and then over fences at Segre in October. The form of those races hasn’t really worked out, but she can only beat the opposition she faces and her experience over fences and at this track will help her cause. However, on balance, she is perhaps flattered by a rating of 60 and she may struggle to mix it with some talented geldings on this occasion.
The card tails off after this, with a couple of claiming races and then an ultra-competitive handicap hurdle to close things off. Having studied those races, it is very hard to have a strong opinion on any of those races, but it is still enough to keep jumps fans ticking over until the Auteuil card this weekend.