We live in an "instant" society. A time of having immediate access to the world at our fingertips and as a result, patience is becoming a virtue of the past. That trend can definitely be traced into the Racing industry, where the focus of many owners, trainers and punters can be on short-term success. The betting markets can often react in a similar fashion, especially with horses that arrive with unexposed profile and a number 1 or 2 in their immediate form. The majority of the questions that I am asked about French horses fall into the "what could win the Triumph hurdle" category. I don't think that I have ever been asked "which horses could develop into decent 3-mile chasers in a few years?" That is just the nature of the world we live in, but it highlights a key point that not every French purchase is going to be ready to win a Novice hurdle. Many of them need time to mature and Racings history is littered with French types who have taken time to reach their peak, but did eventually go on to reach the very top levels of the sport. Now I think it is fairly unlikely that either of these horses who make their UK debuts on Thursday will go on to be Grade 1 types, but I think it is important to stress that they both have potential, even if their debuts don't exceed their market expectations.
HIGH GAME ROYAL (Philip Hobbs)
An unexposed AQPS horse by Martaline, he made his racecourse debut at Senonnes in October 2021, finished 2nd to Hashting. The winner won both his starts in France before being sold, whilst the 3rd, 4th and 5th have all won races since to give the form a solid look. Having settled towards the rear, he made good headway under pressure around the top bend and although he was no match for the easy winner, he stayed on well to beat the rest. He has joined Philip Hobbs and makes his debut over 2-miles at Stratford this Thursday. On the limited evidence that we have from that debut 12-months ago, I’d be happy enough to let him run as I think he is likely to need a greater test of stamina and a speed track like Stratford may not be to his liking.
He is a full-brother to the Grade 2 winning Chaser Echiquier Royal and has 6 other winning half-siblings (he is his dams 15th foal), with most of the family showing a liking for soft ground. On paper, he looks a longer term prospect, but he showed a good attitude on debut and will not be a surprise if he picks up a Novice hurdle over a longer trip before he eventually goes chasing.
KADEX (Lucy Wadham)
This son of Saddex joins Lucy Wadham having won 2 of his 4 starts for Daniela Mele in France. He won a pair of Claiming hurdles at Pau and Compiegne in the early part of 2022, showing a good aptitude for soft ground. The form of those races is nothing out of the ordinary, the horses he beat at Compiegne are now rated the equivalent of 108 and 114, but he did it well and recorded a decent time figure for the grade. His win at Compiegne is of particular interest, as he made his way to the line away from the stands rail bias, which is certainly a rarity when the ground is deep there. For a horse with a relatively low action, he seemed to handle the testing conditions well and does possess a decent turn of foot.
His dam won over obstacles and has produced 2 other winning progeny, though neither has gone beyond a mark equivalent to 115. The Grand-Dam reached higher up the scale and she produced Royale Marie, the dam of Balko de Flos, so there is certainly some ability in the family. He has potential, but on the form he showed in France he is going to need to step up significantly on his debut for Lucy Wadham to win off an opening handicap mark of 117 at Worcester. I have him running to a mark of 108 when he won at Compiegne, so after just 4 starts it is not impossible to imagine that he will go close to doing so, especially given the record that Lucy Wadham and Bryony Frost have when they team up. However, unless there was significant support for him in the market, the safe play would be to oppose him until he drops slightly in grade.