Back over to the UK for the 3rd horse in this series and it’s the first time we head to Ditcheat and the Champion Trainer. Paul Nicholls has always had strong recruitment in France and there are a some very decent horses on this years list with his name next to them. Although not quite at the same level as Willie Mullins, he is still towards the top of the list when looking to see where an exciting prospect may be heading to. The spending power of Tom Malone and others has meant that over the years a lot of business has been done to recruit leading French talent to Ditcheat and whilst there may not be a Kauto Star or Big Buck’s on the 2022 roster, there are some really exciting prospects to look forwards to.
So many of the horses on my list have form from Auteuil. It’s the pinnacle of French Jumps racing and so naturally the vast majority of the top talent will run there before being sold, but that isn’t the whole story. Todays horse didn’t run at Auteuil. There are so many wonderful tracks in France that produce top class racing, but Auteuil gets the majority of the International focus and so this form can often be missed. For todays horse we need to head to Moulins in the East. For what looked to be a run of the mill bumper in early April, but which looks to have produced a very promising winner.
BEAU BALKO (Paul Nicholls)
As his name might suggest, this 4-year-old is a son of Balko. His dam didn’t really achieve anything in her only start on the track, but she has produced Soft Risk, who has won 4 of his 6 starts for Nicky Richards. The Grand-Dam produced 7 winning progeny and whilst the family doesn’t boast any superstars, the majority seem to have taken their racing well and paid their way.
He won his only start for the Paysan yard at Moulins in April, where, having tracked the leader, he put the race to bed with some ease once they turned for home. Driven out to the line by Gaetan Masure, he quickened smartly and produced a final circuit time of 2:12.20, almost 8s below the course average and easily the fastest on the card. There are a couple of small notes of caution about the times, it is Moulins, which is one of the flattest courses around and it is also worth noting that they barely broke into a canter on the first circuit of this race, so it was always going to develop into a sprint. That being said, once they quickened there was only ever going to be one winner and he wasn’t asked for everything, so there is certainly a lot more to come. The form in behind is nothing outstanding, but the confident manner he displayed and his smooth traveling style would suggest that he could have found more if the race required it.
He didn’t make his debut until the age of 4, which would suggest he is a longer term project, but there should still be some decent Novice hurdle targets for him when the time comes.