FILS DE ROI (Fergal O’Brien)
A winner at the 6th time of asking for Yannick Fouin, he got his head in front in a 3-year-old Claiming hurdle at Auteuil 5 weeks ago. He won that race by 15-lengths and although the 2nd has been well beaten at Compiegne afterwards, that was a huge step up into a Class 1 contest and it is better to judge this form on those who finished 3rd and 4th. Both are rated the equivalent of 110 or so and looked to run their races, but the overall time was the slowest of the day despite the strong early pace to tow them along. Having raced 4-lengths off the pacesetter, he took up the running as they turned for home and never looked likely to be caught once he did so. It is never easy to quantify claiming hurdles, but I think it is fair to say that he ran to at least a mark of 115 when winning last month, but whether that level of form will prove good enough to carry a 7lb penalty at Huntingdon remains to be seen. Perhaps more concerning would be the conditions, it was officially “Very Soft” at Auteuil last month and when he raced on better ground at Dieppe in the summer he was regularly outpaced.
He has a National Hunt pedigree, a son of Saint des Saints out of a Poliglote mare, he is a half-brother to a point winner and there is a smattering of quality in the immediate family. The French handicapper has given him a rating of 60-kilos (120), which they were obliged to do after he gave several 110 rated horses a 15-length beating at Auteuil, but on the balance of his 5 previous starts that mark looks a little optimistic. His best pieces of form both came in Claiming company and at this stage of the year, there is a definite drop in quality in those types of races when compared to earlier on in the campaign. There are much better judges of 3-year-old form than myself, but I believe the form that Admiralty House and Age of Sail showed at Kempton is stronger than Fils de Roi. Those 2 fought out the finish of a decent race last time, pulling 17-lengths clear of the 78-rated Flat performer, Trojan Horse. Jack Hogans 7lb claim will offset his penalty for the Auteuil win, but unless there was significant rainfall I would have enough doubts about the ground and the speed test at Huntigndon to put me off. I wouldn’t lay him at the 11/4 currently on offer, but I wouldn’t back him either.
FRIENDLY STAR (A J Martin)
After 16 starts, he is one of the more exposed French horses to join an Irish yard this season. He was a fair Novice hurdler in 2018 and has won a couple of times since in France, but those wins came in Cross-Country races at Pau and Lion D’Angers. He has an official rating of 56-kilos (112), but that mark is based on his form over fences and it is hard to say it is a fair reflection of him as a hurdler. Although he made the Frame on all 3 starts over hurdles in 2018, he didn’t get his head in front and so is able to run in a Novice hurdle on his first start for his new yard. The soft conditions at Galway won’t be an issue and we can be fairly sure that he will stay the 2-miles 4-furlongs on Sunday, but surely he wasn’t brought to Ireland for Novice hurdles? The unexposed pair at the head of the market look likely to dominate this race and whilst I am loathed to call it so, this looks like a prep run for another target, possibly over the banks course at Punchestown or the Cross-Country at Cheltenham.
I would stop there as I think there are likely to be other days for him, but his pedigree does offer a glimmer of hope. His dam was a Listed hurdle winner, he is a half-brother to 3 hurdle winners, including Iamastar who has joined Philip Hobbs this year. He was lightly raced over hurdles and if he runs well on Sunday, his new connections might be tempted to persist. A €29,000 purchase from the Bryant dispersal, the percentage call is to assume he has been bought for Cross-Country racing, but you never know. Either way, I will not be backing him to make a winning Irish debut at Galway on Sunday, but he could be one for next time.