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 runners at Kelso and Tipperary.
TRAPRAIN LAW - Lucinda Russell
Still a maiden after 4 starts over hurdles for David Cottin, he has reached a rating of 58.5 kilos in France, which would make his new BHA mark of 117 look pretty fair. 3rd on debut at Auteuil in the Pride of Kildare last September, a race that also included Si Elegant (2nd) and Icare Grandchamp (6th), who are both due to make their UK debuts in the near future, he built on that with 2 subsequent 3rd placed finishes at Pau. Both of those races in the south have worked out well and the fact that he managed to get within 6-lengths of subsequent Listed winner L’Eau du Sud (who has now joined Dan Skelton) would suggest that there will be plenty of races to be won with him.
He pulled up on his final start last February, but I wouldn’t be too harsh when judging that, as he had been on the go for 6 months by that stage and racing on bottomless ground. He travelled nicely behind the leaders before being hampered 4 out and allowed to ease down. He has proven that he handles soft ground, so any rain wouldn’t be of any real concern. His dam was a talented hurdler, whilst the family also includes the Grade 1 winner Katiki. Although perhaps not a superstar, he looks capable of reaching a mark around 140 in time and should go well if fit and ready to run his race. He makes his debut for Lucinda Russell in the 2:00 at Kelso on Sunday.
BELLA SCINTILLA - Joseph O’Brien
A relatively experienced Filly who made 7 starts for Daniela Mele in France, she was arguably one of the best maidens in training before making her move to join Joseph O’Brien. She has some solid form in the book, including when 2nd to subsequent Grade 3 winner La Boetie at Compiegne in April 2021 and when 3rd to La Cheneviere and West End Girl at Auteuil in June 2021. That race in particular has worked out well, with the winner landing a Grade 3 and the 2nd going on to finish 2nd in the Grade 1 Prix Alain du Breil when she was last seen. A repeat of either of those efforts ought to be enough to pick up a maiden hurdle in Ireland, especially if she races against her own sex.
She has been Chasing already and showed a good attitude for jumping, chasing home La Boetie again when 2nd at Compiegne last April on her final start n France. Whilst I would normally be cautious with horses who have already jumped the bigger fences in France, I think that she has shown a lot of ability as a Jumper and so the switch between hurdles and fences shouldn't cause too much of an issue. She has regularly run good time figures and looks a nice prospect for Mares races. She will make her debut for Joseph O’Brien in the 1:00 at Killarney.