As the National Hunt season begins to gather pace there are more and more French recruits making their debuts. That has increased the number of posts that I am trying to find the time to write, but it is also increasing the focus on French horses and how their form translates. I do my best to keep a record of the markets and how they react to the horses form. So far, by my count, 5 of the horses on my early season list have been sent off as favourite for their British/Irish debuts, yet only one, Keep Running at Bangor in late September, has managed to oblige. That doesn't mean that the markets were necessarily wrong to suggest those horses had a good chance of making a winning start, but it does perhaps reflect that they don't always give a true reflection of a horses form in France. Horses are priced on so many factors, Form, Breeding, Video Replays, Connections, Betting Patterns, the list can be endless, but unless there is a deeper understanding of these factors it can lead to a distorted market view.
This opinion could well be supported by the debut of Invincible Nao on Saturday. Now trained by Gary Moore, he has the profile of a good horse, but understanding what his French form is actually worth could lead to a different view.
Invincible Nao (Gary Moore)
On paper, he is a new recruit for Gary Moore who won his final start in France by an impressive 9-lengths. If you don’t dig too deep into the form and just watch the race visually, he looks top class, but the question is can we entirely trust that? A 4-year-old AQPS son of Gris de Gris, he took 3 attempts to get off the mark for Emanuel Clayeux at the start of 2022, winning a Class 2 AQPS hurdle at Auteuil in April. The form of that race is hard to interpret, as the 2nd fell on his next start and the 3rd was sold shortly afterwards. However, the 4th, 5th and 6th have all won races since and the overall time was 6-seconds faster than the Fillies race over the same course and distance on the card.
He is a half-brother to a couple of winners and descends from the family of Grade 3 winning chaser Jurancon II. He cost €155,000 at the Arqana sale in May and makes his debut for Gary Moore at Ascot on Saturday. It would be tempting to assume, with such a lofty price tag, that he would be a good thing, but he meets some Novices with seriously smart bumper form from the back end of last season and with a 9lb penalty to carry that is going to require a big effort. He made the running at Auteuil when he won in April and it would not surprise me if Jamie Moore attempted to do the same thing this weekend. Whilst he won by 9-lengths at Auteuil, I believe he ran to a mark in the region of 125 and under a penalty, he is likely to need to run to 130+ to making a winning start for his new connections. I do like this horse and I’m sure he will win races, but this looks a very deep race on Saturday and I suspect he may be vulnerable. He was beaten fairly on his first 2 starts and now that he steps out of 4-year-old only races for the first time, his limitations may well be exposed.