When you spend as much time watching French National Hunt racing as I do, you like to think you have a pretty good handle on the form and how it translates to the UK and Ireland. It is never an exact science, especially as the vast majority of horses who are sold to race this side of the Channel are very lightly raced and open to any amount of improvement. However, there is a definite edge to understanding the level of form that a horse has reached in France, especially as the majority of Bookmakers will price a French horse on its connections and the bare numbers of its form rather than what it has actually achieved. The other key angle is the French program book, where the vast majority of races are run over no further than 4000m, or 2-miles and 4-furlongs. As a result, a huge number of horses who arrive in the UK can find improvement for a step up in trip that would not have been available to them in their native France.
In truth there are loads of angles with French horses, many of which get missed because everyone is looking for the Triumph hurdle winner. If you read this blog on a regular basis you will have seen that I recently posted the list of 100 horses that have moved to the UK and Ireland this summer. The plan, work commitments permitting, is to provide a short written profile for each horse as they make their UK or Irish debuts and today we have 3 horses at Stratford to look at.
La Breille - Richard Bandey
A 3-year-old Filly by Spanish Moon, she has joined Richard Bandey after 2 runs in France in the Paper silks for Patrice Quinton. She is her dams 12th Foal, but according to France Galop records, her 11 siblings have struggled to make it to the track and have not yet registered a victory, albeit from a limited number of runs. All is not lost however, as her dam won on her only start in a bumper and she is a half-sister to Grade 3 winning chaser Saute Au Bois, who reached a peak rating of 76-kilos in France (152).
She made her debut at Dax in May, when she was a well beaten 5th, but made a much better showing when 2nd at Auteuil on her final start for the Quinton team. That was a Claiming hurdle, so the form needs to be taken cautiously, but the winner went on to run well in a Class 2 contest on her next start so it is not the worst Claiming race I have seen this season. She made most of the running that day and looked the most likely winner as the field turned for home, before being picked off by Jonque Bleue after the final furlong. The final circuit time was 4s quicker than the other Claimer on the card, with the pace lifting after the 4th last, possibly suggesting that she was sent for home too soon. There will be races to be won with this filly, but a tight course like Stratford, in a race against the Colts and Geldings may not be ideal and she is more likely a horse for Fillies and Mares races down the line.
Master Dancer - Richard Bandey
Another to join Richard Bandey, this 5-year-old son of Masterstroke is a much more experienced horse, with 5 starts and 1 win, albeit over fences, to his name. He was last seen finishing down the field in a hurdle race at Pau last December, but that was a Class 1 contest and so I wouldn’t judge the form too harshly. He is lightly raced and his mark of 117 doesn’t look impossible, but he is surely a chaser having a pipe opener over hurdles today. His best form, including his win, came in the French Provinces and he probably didn’t need to run beyond a mark of 100 to win over fences at Nimes last November. This is a good family. His dam is a half-sister to 9 winners and once he gets some soft ground and a step up in trip, I’m sure that Richard Bandey will find races for him, but I don’t think today is the day.
It’s a Good Name - Warren Greatrex
Also in the Novice hurdle at Stratford, It’s a Good Name arrives after winning at Les Sables on his final start for the Delaunay team. That form is not the easiest to assess, but the 2nd and 5th have both won races since and the time compares favourably. He tracked the leader throughout that contest before taking up the running at the 2nd last and he knuckled down well to assert in the closing stages. That was an AQPS hurdle and the field finished in a bit of a heap, so it is very hard to say what the form will prove to be worth. Les Sables is a tight left-handed track, so he should have no problems at Stratford, but carrying a penalty on his British debut won’t be easy and I think he is probably one for handicaps down the line.
Maybe not you might be thinking, but bare in mind that his dam is a half-sister to Cyrname, so there is ability in this family and even if today is not the day, he is a horse to look out for.
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