If you read my last piece in this series, you will have seen me refer to the need to understand the French form and in particular that the betting markets tend to reflect the bare numbers and the new connections of a French recruit, rather than what that form is actually worth. Having said that a horse trained by a Champion trainer with a 1 next to their name in the form book is always likely to be a short price, so when I had a glance through my list for 2022, I came across several who would fit that category. There are 2 horses in todays piece, partly because they have very similar profiles and are now with the 2 Champion trainers, but in the main because they are both once raced winners who “could be anything”. Give a horse to Willie Mullins or Paul Nicholls with a “1” in the form column and they are almost certain to be the favorite when they make their debuts, but will that be a good reflection of their chance? Well obviously that depends on the opposition, race and conditions, but to have a grip on what their form is worth could be a great help. So here is my interpretation.
IVALDI (Paul Nicholls)
An AQPS 4-year-old, he won on his only start for the Lageneste and Macaire team at Fontainebleau in early March. Having tracked the early pace, he made good headway to take it up at the 2nd last and asserted well in the closing stages. The time was nothing out of the ordinary, but the form has worked out fairly well, with the 3rd placed horse winning twice since and the 4th, Mister Policeman, winning on his next start and subsequently joining Willie Mullins (see related articles). David Gallon rode him to win at Fontainebleau and he told Jour de Galop after the race” I didn’t know the horse before today, he was very serene, very calm. He latched on when we jumped the diagonal hurdle, I let him breathe on the turn and then he went again jumping last. He did it like a good horse.”
His page is nothing amazing but there is at least a solid National Hunt pedigree. He’s by Night Wish out of an unraced Robin does Champs mare who has already produced 3 winners, whilst his Grand-Dam won 5 of her 13 starts over obstacles and reached a peak rating of 65-kilos (143 equivalent). He will run in the De La Haye colours and given their record of solid recruitment in France, he isn’t going to be missed when he makes his first start for the Champion trainer. However, he won a race in March and so will not be considered a Novice, meaning that he will need to be very carefully placed. Something like the 4-year-old hurdle at the Chepstow meeting in October or the Masterson hurdle at Cheltenham might be decent starting point for him. He is once raced and so is open to any amount of improvement, but on the balance of his form and his pedigree, I don’t think he is Pattern class and so that could make life difficult for him until he can enter handicaps later down the line. Paul Nicholls has a fantastic record with this type of recruit, but I think there are better horses in the yard and I intend to be wary of him, especially in his first few races for his new connections.
LOSSIEMOUTH (Willie Mullins)
Not to be confused with the other LOSSIEMOUTH (Tom Lacey), this daughter of Great Pretender won her only start for Yannick Fouin when she won the Prix Geographie at Auteuil in April this year. Her dam is a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Lord Glitters and she has one of the better pages of those who have been sold to Closutton this year. Any filly who wins a race on debut by 10-lengths at Auteuil and is then subsequently sold to Willie Mullins is going to get noticed, but there is something about this performance that has really grown on me. It is hard to weigh up the form, as many of those Fillies in behind have not raced since, but the 3rd and 5th both placed on their next starts and even the 10th placed horse has won twice since, so I think that we can start to trust this race as a solid piece of form. Her final circuit time was the slowest of the day, but in a contest for unraced Fillies that is not surprising and she matched the time of the 4YO Listed hurdle winner from the 3rd last to the line on the same card. She made all the running at Auteuil and despite making an error and jumping to her left at the last, she recovered easily and powered away from a decent field on the run in. There looks to be so much more to come that it was impossible not to include her in this series.
After the race, Yannick Fouin told Jour de Galop “She still had gears to shift. I think she has real potential, a good temperament, class, a good attitude. After the race, she was untested. She was relaxed the whole race. The last hurdle could have cost her dearly, but she had so much gas... She's not a very precocious filly. We didn't scratch the surface with her as a 2 year old, it came little by little. I think it was her class that made the difference today. When they are good, we are all good!” Fouin has nurtured the likes of Rivière D’Etel in the past and has a great handle with young fillies and mares. She looks top class to me and as a 3-year-old filly the options are almost endless for her, but I think that given her connections record with mares, she is almost certain to end up with plenty of Black-type on her CV if all goes to plan. There are lots of nice horses who are due to make their debuts in the Ricci colours this season, but she looks to be one of their best recruits at this stage.
* I would add a small footnote to this piece. If you don’t have time to watch endless hours of French replays, give a little time to the meeting on 4th April at Auteuil (link below). Plenty of horses who ran on this card have been sold to the UK and Ireland in the interim and I believe it to be one of the key meetings of the spring season.