French horses can arrive from a variety of sources and whilst the hurdle races at Auteuil will always be the key source to focus on, it is not the only route to potential stardom. Flat racing is one of those sources and whilst Vauban is the most obvious example in recent years, the method of recruiting an unexposed 3-year-old from the Flat and turning them into a hurdling star is not a new one. In the 2022 series, I wrote about last months Galway hurdle winner Zarak the Brave, who came from the Flat when he was recruited by Willie Mullins. I have put a link to that piece below and as you can see, I was quite happy to oppose him based on what he had shown on the Flat in France. Clearly, Willie Mullins and co knew far more than I did and I won't be making the same mistake with todays horse. Liari is a Flat recruit who was bred by the Aga Khan Stud and there is every chance that he could turn into a leading prospect for Paul Nicholls.
3-year-old Gelding who has joined Paul Nicholls for Neil and Alfie Smith
Cracksman x Lidiyana (Motivator)
Bred by Haras De S.A. Aga Khan Scea.
4th Foal. Half-brother to 3 winners including Listed winner over 10f, Likala. Dam 1m maiden winner, half-sister to 4 winners including Listed/G3.
Jean-Claude Rouget loves to target the 3-year-old maidens at Cagnes-Sur-Mer in January and February, so the fact that Liari made his racecourse debut there on 30th January would suggest that he was thought to be above average. He finished 2nd behind Back to Black on that debut over 2,150 meters and made no mistake on his second start when winning over a similar trip at Toulouse in March. On both occasions he took time to quicken but once he did lengthen in the closing stages he galloped through the line well and looks likely to stay further on this evidence. The form book will say that he finished last of 5 on his final start for Jean-Claude Rouget in a Class 1 conditions race at Lyon in April, but that doesn't tell the whole story as he was beaten less than 3-lengths in a race that was run at a crawl, which didn't look to suit. A finishing speed of 114% (final 3-furlongs) left him vulnerable to a turn-of-foot and the winner, Back to Black, who also beat Liari on debut, has subsequently run well in Listed company to boost the form. Liari ran closing sectionals of 11.19 and 11.53s after being outpaced off the home turn and as a son of Cracksman, we can assume that he will stay further and that level of roar speed will surely make him dangerous when he goes over hurdles.
The French handicapper gave him a rating of 40-kilos after the Lyon performance, which roughly equates to 89 on the BHA scale, so if he takes to hurdles, he should prove to be an above average recruit, especially if connections decide to run him as a Juvenile prospect. I haven't been able to find any horses by Cracksman who have gone over hurdles, but his Sire, Frankel, has had winners over timber and Liari does look to have the size and scope to make into a National Hunt horse. I think that it is fair to say that the Juvenile hurdling division in the UK has been relatively weak in recent seasons, especially when compared to the strength in depth of the Juvenile races in Ireland. For that reason, a genuine 85+ rated Flat horse should be able to make his mark and he has a very similar profile to Afadil, who Paul Nicholls won 3 races with in the last campaign. In a like for like comparison, Liari was a better horse in France than Afadil (the French handicapper agrees with Afadil rated 37.5k) and I would expect Liari to find one or 2 opportunities to reward his connections when he goes over hurdles.